This past Sunday, December 1st, marked the 25th annual World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We know that private philanthropy has played a catalytic role in the response to HIV/AIDS, increasing from a mere $216,000 in 1983 to roughly $500,000,000 annually today, and helping to scale up public and private investment in HIV research, prevention, care, treatment and human rights protections.
On this World AIDS Day you may have read that an AIDS-Free Generation is within our grasp. However, while prevention and treatment technologies are rapidly evolving, a trend of flat funding from the public and private sectors will not bring the needed resources to bear to meet the current challenge of the AIDS response, and importantly, endangers those critical issues (advocacy) and key populations (men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers) philanthropy has sought to protect.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day - Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation – is an essential one. After more than 25 years mobilizing the philanthropic response to HIV/AIDS, FCAA has made seeking out new partners—from across different borders and issue areas—to join the philanthropic response to HIV/AIDS a cornerstone of our new strategic plan. With decreased philanthropic funding for HIV/AIDS, this work of community building is more important than ever. How do we connect on issues beyond HIV/AIDS to improve our impact? How do we reengage key actors that no longer see HIV/AIDS as their issue? How do we mobilize this sector to ensure we reach an AIDS-Free generation and see an end to AIDS?
Next week we will convene our 5th annual AIDS Philanthropy Summit. Since 2009 FCAA has brought together 100 leading public and private funders to discuss and strategize a collective response to the current challenges and opportunities in HIV/AIDS and related philanthropy.
This year we’re taking a new approach.
We’ve invited our affinity group partners to join us, and our members, to begin an important conversation focused on the opportunities and challenges of collaborating with partners outside of your funding portfolios.
The first day of this two-day conference (Dec 9-10) will be implemented in partnership with the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) to focus on rights-based approaches to HIV/AIDS. The day’s agenda will focus on innovative funding approaches such as advocacy, and on impacted populations such as transgender people, women, injection drug users, and sex workers.
The second day will feature lunch roundtable discussions hosted by Grantmakers in Health, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, the Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health & Rights, and IHRFG. These conversations will help grantmakers identify areas of shared interest, barriers to collaboration, and strategies to bridge those gaps to make a greater impact. Finally, the Summit will end with an interactive session hosted by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy to further encourage attendees to think about “Smashing Silos in Philanthropy” and building collaborations across issue-areas.
When FCAA was established in 1987, it was with a strong, activist voice reminding the field of philanthropy that AIDS is their issue. HIV is a disease perpetuated by poverty, racism, homophobia, and sexism –it feeds on the inequities that many engaged in a broad range of philanthropic efforts have worked tirelessly to address over decades. Clearly AIDS does not contain itself to any silo, and neither can an effective philanthropic response.
Learn more about the FCAA 2013 AIDS Philanthropy Summit online (www.fcaaids.org/2013Summit).
John Barnes is executive director of FCAA.
This blog was originally posted on CNN Money. The Council on Foundations is partnering with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan. For more information on how you or your organization can be involved in recovery efforts, please visit the CDP website.
There is a Toby Keith song with the lyrics, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” With each catastrophic disaster, I am reminded of this song. I was an emergency responder following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and continue to work towards the Gulf’s recovery. It is predicted that the books will not be closed on that storm until 2026. Back then, I had no idea how long the road to recovery would be. I often wish I didn’t know now relief is just the beginning and taking the long view is much harder. We must implement the lessons we learned that allow us to take the longer – and sometimes harder – view. So let us try a new approach with Typhoon Haiyan, and implement these lessons of recovery, rebuilding, and preparation.
Relief organizations are already mobilized and on the ground in the Philippines doing initial assessments and providing life-saving supplies and medical care. The Washington, DC-based alliance organization InterAction reports that there are areas where 80-90% of homes have been destroyed, so it is crucial to find inhabitants shelter. They are also working to clear lines of communication, restore electricity, and clear roads to allow relief aid to get to the most isolated regions. Hold tight, eager volunteers: USAID, InterAction, NetHope, and other relief entities have perfected coordinating immediate relief and emergency aid. The role of such organizations is to get into a region, save the inhabitants from immediate trauma and death, and then leave.
Once relief efforts leave, the long, winding road to recovery begins. Six to eight weeks following a disaster, when media attention has waned, there is a decrease in giving as well. However, while media, funders, and emergency responders spend a short amount of time dealing with immediate needs, this does not create the infrastructure to mitigate future risk, and leaves long-term needs such as resettlement, mental and public health, as well as fiscal viability unfunded and unattended. Grass-roots humanitarian organizations that provide year-round support to sustain local communities’ on-going needs and enable them to recover do exist. However, to sustain year-round recovery and capacity-building, these organizations require year-round funding.
The faster communities recover, the better they do in the face of compounding disasters. Less than a month ago, the Philippines experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. People in Bohol and other provinces were still living under tarpaulins and in makeshift housing, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the typhoon. Those whose houses were damaged by the earthquake were made unlivable by the typhoon. The Philippines has faced devastating storms three years in a row, and they are located in the aptly named Pacific “Ring of Fire,” named for its prevalence of volcanoes and earthquakes. It is home to over 75 percent of the Earth’s active and dormant volcanoes and roughly 81 percent of the largest earthquakes occur in this region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. They see an average of 19 typhoons each year: it is almost inevitable that they will again face compound disasters.
In the U.S., the Gulf region has used the crises of flooding and coastal erosion as an economic driver, in the form of coastal restoration. There is an emerging “business of resilience.” Can the Philippines turn increasing coastal resilience into an industry? The GDP of the Philippines has been rising every year since 1998, and in 2011 the International Monetary Fund reported that the Philippines boasted the 45th-largest economy in the world. In order to continue this upward economic trajectory, the Philippines must continue to build stronger communities. This recovery process affords the possibility of building back stronger and improving infrastructure so that communities are better prepared in the face of future catastrophes. This includes more viable evacuation and resettlement planning.
Investing in solid, long-term rebuilding can also empower communities to take control of their own recovery. FEMA employs this “Survivor-Centric Response” in the U.S. In taking an active role in their own recovery, they report that a community is able to build local capacity. It also enables those taking part to feel better psychologically and, in knowing that they have the ability to rebuild their own lives, they also feel more positive about their ability to cope with future disasters.
In giving to emergency relief, every dollar counts. In terms of long-term recovery of the Philippines, it takes an investment of not only cash, but time, endurance, empathy, and your sturdiest pair of running shoes to complete the marathon. Evidence from the U.S. Geological Survey and the World Bank indicate that for every dollar invested in disaster risk reduction, between $2 and $10 is saved in disaster response and recovery costs. Meanwhile, the return on the investment in humanity is priceless!
Lori Bertman is president and CEO of the Baton Rouge-based Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, and the board chair of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. Follow Lori on Twitter: @LoriBertman.
Why should my community foundation care about public policy?
Community foundations have a unique philanthropic voice in to bring to policymakers in Washington D.C. You are fully integrated into the lifeblood of your communities, and are intimately familiar with the urgent needs of those you serve. This grassroots experience is invaluable, and it is essential that lawmakers hear your perspective so that the decisions they make reflect the needs of real communities across America.
Advocacy work also has direct benefits for your foundation. It can raise awareness of your mission, attract favorable media attention, and mobilize and reinvigorate your members, volunteers, donors, and board members.
And, now is a perfect time to make your voice heard. Critical decisions on tax reform and government spending are being made this fall that could impact how your organization operates. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are making behind-the-scenes determinations on how to reform the tax code, and a budget conference committee is charged with making key choices on government spending by December 13th.
What type of advocacy are we allowed to do?
As public charities, community foundations may engage in a limited amount of direct lobbying, which is broadly defined as communication with a legislator or legislative employees that reflects a view about specific legislation. However, community foundations are always free to contact or meet with legislators for networking purposes or to educate them about the charitable and philanthropic sector in their districts. The Council’s website includes several legal resources that lay out the advocacy rules, including one specifically on the advocacy rules for community foundations.
How should we engage with our elected officials?
We encourage you to begin by reaching out to your elected officials to network or educate them about philanthropy and charitable activity in your area. Establish a rapport, and keep your city council members, mayors, governors, senators, and representatives regularly informed about the work you do and what is happening on the ground in your communities. When you communicate with your elected officials for these purposes, we urge you to consider the following:
· Be clear about why you are contacting them (i.e., to let them know about your foundation’s upcoming 10-year anniversary or a new program you started in the community);
· Come with nonpartisan facts and figures about your foundation and your work in the community;
· Consult with other community foundations or public charities in your area to make sure you bring a unified voice from the sector, when possible;
· Offer to serve as a resource for the legislator and his or her staff on charitable issues in the future.
Check out the Council’s publication, A Foundation’s Guide to Advocacy, to learn more about the most effective ways to communicate with elected officials.
The Council can help!
The Council urges you to share your experiences, successes, and frustrations with us so that we can continue to support you on Capitol Hill. In fact, we will be meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday, November 20th to advocate for charitable giving incentives as part of the Charitable Giving Coalition’s Capitol Hill fly-in event. We would love for you to join us! If you cannot attend in person but would like to participate, we are putting together a toolkit of media outreach opportunities that we will share with you when it is ready.
Katherine LaBeau is a Public Policy Analyst with the Council on Foundations.
With competition from other charitable options and heightened scrutiny of charities in the media, National Standards set our field—and your community foundation—apart and underscore your commitment to integrity, effectiveness and transparency.
In 2000, a group of respected community foundation practitioners collaborated with the Council on Foundations to establish National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™. National Standards assist community foundations in instituting legal, ethical and effective operating practices that show a foundation’s transparency and financial responsibility. Community foundation accreditation is reconfirmed every five years.
Standards are designed to:
41 National Standards address six key areas of community foundation operations:
Being an accredited community foundation provides benefits including:
Thanks to hundreds of community foundations that are leading the way toward greater accountability and transparency, more than two-thirds of the field has been accredited and is displaying the official National Standards Seal that denotes the achievement.
Additional information about National Standards can be found online at www.cfstandards.org.
Lara Kalwinski is Policy & Strategy Associate, Director of National Standards at the Council on Foundations.
Gifts to community foundations have long been used as planning tools by individuals with philanthropic goals. Apart from qualifying for the maximum income tax deduction and the estate tax deduction, the community foundation is a vehicle that provides donors a variety of opportunities for fulfilling their philanthropic objectives. Among the most critical outcomes in community foundation success is ensuring that legal processes, including compliance with the tax code, are adhered to. And because nearly all federal and state laws pertain, directly or indirectly, to tax-exempt organizations, there are few areas of law that have no bearing whatsoever on such exempt entities, including community foundations.
Successfully interpreting and reconciling nonprofit laws can tax even the most capable of community foundation execs and program managers. In order to avoid the severe reputational and financial risks that might otherwise result, prudent foundations should seek advice from legal advisors competent in charitable organizations.
The Council on Foundations Legal Services
The Council on Foundations understands that community foundations are responsible for a wide range of activities related to grantmaking and charitable programs. In order to assist members, the Council offers legal services and makes resources available to help unravel the meaning of the regulatory and legal issues so foundations can work within the limits of the law to achieve their objectives.
Requests for Information (RFIs)
The Council, like any organization, strives to set a high bar when it comes to meeting its members’ customer service standards. To that end, Legal Services make every effort to respond to inquiries either via telephone or e-mail (preferred) within the next three to four business days in which the request was received (the timing of each response depends on the volume of messages and the order in which they are received).
Legal Services has received and addressed comprehensive community foundation RFIs in topics such as (not exhaustive):
Scholarships are one of the most frequent topics our legal team discusses with community foundations. Legal Services understands there is little law directly pertaining to grantmaking to individuals by public charities, but we may be able to direct you to the right resources for issues such as:
· Can a preference be given to female applicants?
· Are loan forgiveness awards qualified scholarships under the Internal Revenue Code?
· Do you have sample documents for scholarship funds?
Donor Advised Funds are a tax and legal minefield for community foundations, all resting on the fundamental fact that the fund is an alternative to private foundation. While we wait further instruction from the Treasury Department on regulation of DAF’s the Council has numerous resources to assist you with managing your donor advised funds. Here are some of our most frequently requested materials:
- Council on Foundations Donors Advised Funds Booklet
- FAQs for Taxable Distributions for Donor Advised Funds
Supporting Organizations are important to understand because they can require grantmakers to exercise different types of oversight of their grantees. For example, a qualified supporting organization must satisfy an organizational test, an operational test, a relationship test, and a disqualified person control test. For more information, see Determination of Supporting Organization Status.
Grants to Non-charities may be given to non-charities and organizations awaiting their exempt status; however, Expenditure Responsibility rules will apply. If you’ve ever taken a call about a grant to a specific individual receiving medical treatment, a specific family who lost their home, a grant for a government entity like a local park, or another eyebrow raising call, this resource will become essential to your community foundation.
Executive Compensation is an important section of your IRS Form 990 because private inurement doctrine mandates that the compensation amount paid by most tax-exempt organizations be reasonable. For more information on how to determine the reasonableness of compensation, visit our website.
If this blog post gave you a headache, don’t worry. Council on Foundations knowledgeable staff can answer almost any aspect of charitable organizations. For more information on Legal Services and a host of other legal resources, visit our Legal Information page on the Council website; or to have your foundation-specific RFIs addressed, contact Legal Services at email@example.com.
Bryan Del Rosario is a Law Clerk with the Council on Foundations.
As the Council on Foundations observes Community Foundation Week, this November 12-18, we will be posting stories from across the country of members who exemplify the ability of place-based philanthropy to drive innovation and strategy. If you would like your organization featured here, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Lubov, PhD, recently completed a follow-up to WCI’s 2007 Workforce 2020 study “Using labor turnover to measure the cost-effectiveness of labor training.”
Labor turnover is a hidden, but very real, cost of doing business. It could mean overtime costs to the firm until a new employee is hired and working up to speed. There are also direct costs of hiring someone new—the personnel department costs, advertising, interviewing, training, and the costs of an employment agency or a search firm. In west central Minnesota, West Central Initiative (WCI) has possibly discovered a new way to reduce these costs. Through its Workforce 2020 program WCI is providing funds to support skills training for employees in manufacturing firms.
Employers want to have a well-trained workforce. More training means that the workforce is better prepared, more productive and less prone to accidents. At the same time, employers are sometimes wary of providing training for their employees, fearing that they will take their new skills and seek employment elsewhere in search of higher wages. The lower labor turnover in the west central Minnesota manufacturing sector suggests the opposite is true. Labor turnover among manufacturers providing employee training through the WCI Workforce 2020 program are experiencing statistically lower turnover than manufacturers in the region who are not participating.
Like its predecessor in 2007, this study finds that firms that received training support have considerably lower turnover than firms that don’t, even though fewer employees were trained and the nation was in a recession.
Labor market statistics from 2006-2011 in the region showed that:
· Employment in the manufacturing sector is growing relative to manufacturing employment in the rest of Greater Minnesota;
· Manufacturing unemployment is lower than in the rest of Greater Minnesota and employment fell by less during the 2008–2009 recession; and
· While average weekly wages for manufacturing employees are lower than in the rest of Greater Minnesota combined, they are growing faster.
Did fewer employees trained make a difference? The study found that during the 23 quarters of the study period, average labor turnover among the firms participating in training programs was lower in 22 quarters and the difference in turnover rates was statistically significant in all 22 quarters.
Andrea Lubov, PhD, authored the Impact of West Central Initiative’s Subsidy of Employee Training Programs in West Central Minnesota for the West Central Initiative.
As the Council on Foundations observes Community Foundation Week, this November 12-18, we will be posting stories from across the country of members who exemplify the ability of place-based philanthropy to drive innovation and strategy. If you would like your organization featured here, contact email@example.com.
In 2014, ACT for Alexandria (ACT) will celebrate its 10th anniversary as the community foundation of Alexandria, VA. As a community foundation in a city where the median income is over $82,000 but one in which the number of young children living in poverty has tripled since 2005, ACT is uniquely positioned to guide services toward the most vulnerable members of our community.
Together with a contingent of nonprofit, public, and private partners, ACT established several new initiatives and programs aimed at improving the lives of children in Alexandria. In April 2007, as a result of a partnership between ACT and the City of Alexandria, the Center for Alexandria’s Children (CAC) opened its doors as an advocacy center for children who have experienced abuse. Today, the CAC provides children a safe place to receive coordinated care and bridges a critical gap in services.
In an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing Alexandria’s children, ACT and The Early Care & Education Work Group completed a Risk & Reach Study which will be the framework for a broader conversation on the importance of investing in early care and education. This study will be officially rolled out on November 19, 2013.
To further support our work in early childhood care and education, ACT reaches out to individual residents through our online civic engagement platform, ACTion Alexandria. With ACTion Alexandria, ACT consults Alexandria residents to identify and create important changes for children in the community, such as improving play areas, funding after school tutoring, and gathering donations of books, toys, and diapers.
ACT for Alexandria is fortunate to be located in an actively engaged city with generous residents, dedicated service providers, and civically minded businesses. We hope that, together, our efforts will continue to make a brighter future for children in Alexandria.
For more information about ACT for Alexandria, visit: www.actforalexandria.org
John Porter is executive director of ACT for Alexandria
As the Council on Foundations observes Community Foundation Week, this November 12-18, we will be posting stories from across the country of members who exemplify the ability of place-based philanthropy to drive innovation and strategy. If you would like your organization featured here, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A task force of the Placer Collaborative Network (a project of Placer Community Foundation in northern California) formed to look at Placer County food systems and identify areas to strengthen it and help families have access to healthy food. Results from several focus groups and an on-line survey culminated in the report. This information will be used as a tool to design training and network needs, to encourage collaboration, and to educate the public on the opportunities to support the systems.
Among the findings:
“There is a real need for greater access to fresh, healthy food in our county. Our services are being utilized more and more due to the difficulties our clients face when trying to obtain the nutritious food they and their families need to survive,” said Dave Martinez, Executive Director of the Placer Food Bank.
Veronica Blake, Placer Community Foundation CEO, explained why this information is so critical, “The Community Foundation sees this report as a way to educate the public about what is happening in their neighborhoods. This is an opportunity for local philanthropy to support the work being done around food access.”
Read the full report here: http://www.placercf.org/getinvolved/pcn
Eileen Speaker is marketing/program coordinator at the Placer Community Foundation.
Ten years ago, West Central Initiative (WCI), along with its five sister Minnesota Initiative Foundations, formed the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative (ECI). Thanks to a generous grant from The McKnight Foundation, the MIFs helped establish 90 community and county coalitions throughout Greater Minnesota, including 10 in west central Minnesota. Together, the MIFs and the coalitions are working to ensure that every young child has the best possible start toward a healthy life of learning, achieving and succeeding.
The ECI is based on groundbreaking studies that show how strengthening early care and education for young children and their families is the most important investment communities can make for the future.
“Think about it: our young children are our future employers, workers, government officials, medical staff, engineers, parents, taxpayers, homeowners … the list goes on. If we start now to make sure they grow into strong, healthy, community-minded adults, we build the foundation for a strong, healthy society and workforce,” said Nancy Jost, WCI’s early childhood coordinator.
Building nurturing communities of thriving children
The ECI brings together people and organizations to form community teams that support the well-being of our youngest children. WCI assists with coalition building in 10 countywide sites throughout west central Minnesota. These coalitions seek the involvement of parents, senior citizens, educators, business and community leaders, the faith community, policy makers and all citizens interested in making their community a nurturing environment for young children and their families. Each ECI team is lead by a coordinator who facilitates the process of identifying, planning and implementing strategies specific to helping their communities become more nurturing places for young children and their families.
In the past 10 years, the west central Minnesota ECI coalitions have taken on several regional projects, including: developing an Early Childhood Dental Network to increase oral health education and access to families with young children; holding school readiness forums and working with school districts to coordinate learning for children from preschool to third grade; early childhood mental health initiatives to provide resources and advocacy on the social/emotional development of young children; child care provider groups and resources, and much more.
For more information about the west central Minnesota ECI, visit eci.wcif.org.
Sheri Booms Holm is communications director at the West Central Initiative.
The following infographic was prepared by Mark Neithercut, of Neithercut Philanthropy Advisors.
Having recently transitioned from the world of politics to that of ‘foundationland,’ I was excited to attend my first CoF Conference and help reaffirm in my own mind how foundations can play a more dynamic role in their local communities through a modernization process of what I have been commonly referring to around the offices of The San Diego Foundation as Foundations 2.0.
I note the term modernization because on the back of 100 years of successes, it is important to understand the challenges of an ever-changing civic ecosystem if we are to continue being the premier philanthropic torch bearers for another century.
We should be excited that much of this change is being fuelled by technological advances as this will increase the capacity of foundations to connect with their constituency across a range of different mediums. Being able to share your stories, build an emotional connection between donors and initiatives via social media and capitalizing on ever increasing online giving trends is an opportunity that should be unequivocally embraced on a grand scale.
A number of presenters throughout the conference encouraged calculated risk taking as a strategy to take advantage of the opportunities now available. There is no doubt that an entrepreneurial approach from community foundations might in fact be the keys to unlocking civic engagement and participation and helping repair the ever growing disconnect between government and the general public.
Much of the potential for growth also centers on the embracement of regional diversity that was brilliantly articulated by Manuel Pastor in his Trends & Realities plenary. It is important that foundations reflect the communities they represent if they are to be successful and with new trends in giving circles as impactful giving mechanisms, now is the time to get out from behind the desk and into the field.
From a personal standpoint, my a-ha moment was when Gabriel Kasper highlighted in his day 2 speech that the community foundations ‘model’ was not in fact broken because ultimately there was no model in the first place. This revelation confirmed to me that all approaches to growing stronger communities are in fact the right approaches. We learn, we respond and through that process will ultimately be impactful.
I look forward to continuing this conversation with all the new contacts I had the pleasure of making during the conference and tip my hat to all those driving innovative approaches to connect with their communities and facilitate positive change.
Ryan Ginard is manager of charitable giving at The San Diego Foundation.
Imagine that you and your children are victims of domestic abuse. Or that your landlord refuses to remove mold from your apartment and you are getting sick.
You have been wronged and you want a chance to turn things around. You need a lawyer, but you are poor. You think someone will say, as you’ve seen on countless television shows, “If you can’t afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you.”
Well, think again. That guarantee of legal help only applies to people charged with serious crimes, not to people fighting civil injustices – unlawful evictions, denial of benefits or access to health services – core matters of personal safety, economic security and family support that can threaten basic survival.
In fact, more than 61 million poor and nearly poor Americans are eligible for civil legal aid to help them get their day in civil court. Yet state and national studies estimate that 80 percent of their serious legal needs go unmet due to grossly insufficient funding and support.
After years of working on the issue of access to justice for low-income people, first at the Ford Foundation and now as president of the Public Welfare Foundation, I am convinced that private philanthropy should pay greater attention to this serious concern – and contribute more resources to help narrow the gap between supply and demand.
A recent publication from the Public Welfare Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, called Natural Allies: Philanthropy and Civil Legal Aid, shows why investing in civil legal aid can be an effective and powerful strategy.
By taking this on as a priority, grantmakers can not only help advance equal access to justice, but also help make progress on other issues. Civil legal aid can serve as a significant tool in a funder’s toolbox, similar to community organizing, advocacy, or research. It adds value as an integral component to a funder’s programs, such as affordable housing, access to health care, education reform, economic development, income security, domestic violence, or children and families.
Funders committed to improving conditions for low-income people and communities through service provision see civil legal aid as one of the most effective tools. And those concerned about creating broader impact or ensuring that policies are implemented and sustained view civil legal aid lawyers as terrific partners.
Funders who want to sustain programs and leverage dollars, know that civil legal aid is a powerful vehicle. And they have seen how private funding of innovative legal aid projects often complements state and federal funding through public-private partnerships.
Ultimately, supporting civil legal aid can help empower low-income people and communities to have a shot at the justice they deserve and it can improve the effectiveness and impact of a funder’s support.
Learn more about legal aid and areas of need by visiting authoritative websites:
American Bar Association, www.ambar.org/sclaidinitiatives
Legal Services Corporation, www.lsc.gov
National Legal Aid and Defender Association, www.nlada.org/civil
National Center for State Courts, www.ncsc.org/atj
Mary E. McClymont is president of the Public Welfare Foundation.
The following letter, reproduced with permission, was sent by Juanita T. James, president and CEO of the Fairfield County Community Foundation, to her representatives in Congress. If you would like to contact your representatives about how the shutdown is affecting philanthropy, the COF Public Policy team is available to help. Contact Brian Horn for more information.
Dear Richard, Chris & Jim,
As Fairfield County’s representatives in Congress, it is important for you to understand and convey to your colleagues how the federal government shutdown is impacting the lives of residents in your communities and the nonprofits that serve them.
We often refer to our nonprofit sector as the community “safety net,” stepping in to help those most in need when and where government cannot. Even before the shutdown, however, this safety net of services has been struggling to do more with less.
On shoestring budgets and with limited resources, nonprofits in Fairfield County have been teaching more low-income students, serving more meals to families, providing more housing, more healthcare and more critical services to a growing number of our citizens. But the shutdown threatens this already weakened system and has significantly impacted residents across the county.
Head Start, a program serving more than 6,000 children in Connecticut, closed abruptly for several days, causing major disruptions in the lives of families least able to afford it. Parents took unpaid time off to care for their children, putting their jobs at risk and drastically cutting their weekly earnings. For a family of four earning less than $30,000 a year this is a significant challenge.
Connecticut’s Department of Economic Development and the University of Connecticut were charging forward to launch Small Business Development Centers across the state to help drive economic recovery by supporting and strengthening our region’s entrepreneurs. Now, the $1.2 million federal grant is stalled and the project in limbo at a time when we desperately need job growth.
Coastal Recovery and Planning has mostly come to a halt as the federal funds and federal employees working to restore our region following Superstorm Sandy and help our coastal town governments plan for future storms are no longer available. These delays may very well mean the next major storm will cause costly damage which could have been averted.
These are just some of the local impacts of the federal shutdown. There are many more impacting thousands of residents.
Please continue to work to bring a resolution to this impasse.
Juanita T. James
President & CEO
As much as we’d like to, we can’t predict the future. However, we can ensure the future outlook for effective programs and nonprofits is vibrant. At a recent meeting of grantmakers and nonprofits receiving funding through the federal Social Innovation Fund, Tulaine Montgomery from New Profit Inc., Kate Dempsey from the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, and Antony Bugg-Levine from the Nonprofit Finance Fund had a conversation with colleagues about what it takes to create resilient, sustainable programs and organizations.
Putting organizations and programs on the path to sustainability is not easy and there are many different approaches to take, yet grantmakers have an obligation to think about and work with their grantees on this issue. For some, sustainability is a factor of organizational health, and in particular an organization’s business model. When nonprofits generate repeatable, predictable income, they have the resources to support their organization over time. For others, sustainability looks like an ecosystem — a constellation of organizations, policies and funding sources working in concert to support long-term solutions. And yet others embrace a blended definition with elements of both the organizational and ecosystem approaches.
Regardless of how they defined the end state, all three leaders agreed that grantees need both flexible money and capacity building support in order to achieve sustainability. The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s buyer vs. builder framework is a useful framework for understanding grantmakers’ roles in supporting organizations. Buyers are grantmakers who pay for program delivery, buying services on behalf of the community and a nonprofit’s beneficiaries. Builders are grantmakers who invest in grantee capacity — the planning, R&D, talent and systems that are required to build strong, adaptable organizations. To achieve results over the long term, organizations need both types of support. For example, CEO invests in piloting and expanding poverty-alleviation programs to different cities, collecting a base of evidence about what works best and for whom. This evidence is used secure more buyers by building a case for state and federal policymakers to fund successful programs. New Profit’s grantees receive extensive strategic and technical support and coaching to build out their fundraising programs and other capabilities so that at the end of the grant period, the organizations are able to raise significantly more funds. Like CEO, New Profit is building grantee capacity to secure more buyers.
If the goal of sustainability is to improve lives and communities, what can grantmakers do to help strong and effective organizations create lasting change?
· Have a conversation with grantees about sustainability on day one of the grant cycle, not near its end. Engage grantees in conversation early on about what sustainability might look like and how you can work together to support it.
· Be clear and transparent about your investment in grantee organizations. Are you providing build money, buy money or both?
· Invest in grantee capacity to use evaluation as a tool for learning and improvement. You and grantees need to understand what’s working and why, what tweaks need to be made and what new skills need to be developed. Consider indicators of program impact, as well as performance measures that assess organizational strength.
· Be a funder and fundraiser. Provide grantees with the flexible resources they need and make introductions to help grantees connect with other grantmakers and networks.
· Partner with other grantmakers and community leaders to align resources and assets to create an ecosystem that supports sustainability.
As with many aspects of social change, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or strategy when it comes to sustainability. It’s also not too late to get started. The future of our communities depends on it.
Heather Peeler is VP of programs at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.
This blog post was originally published by the Initiative for Responsible Investing at Harvard University.
We just launched the Community Foundation Field Guide to Impact Investing in San Diego. As part of that, I got to moderate a session with five of the Guide’s contributors –Stuart Comstock-Gay of the Vermont Community Foundation, Bert Feuss of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Kathy Merchant of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Ellen Remmer of The Philanthropic Initiative, and Christa Velasquez of the Giving Practice (and formerly a senior fellow with us at the Initiative for Responsible Investment).
The purpose of the panel was to talk about impact investing and trustee engagement – in particular, how foundations can develop mission investing strategies, and the resources and governance structures to make sure they are put into practice effectively. This was a sharp group of people on the panel, and they dealt with the practical challenges of impact investing at the same time they captured the excitement for boards of building expertise in a new field.
We talked about assessing mission fit and risk appetite (and, said one panelist, that’s almost the whole mission investing discussion right there), building pipelines of investment opportunities in geographically limited spaces, what community foundations can do to build impact investing capacity beyond themselves, the advantages of growing mission investing programs over time, and so on – a conversation that grew out of the work in the Field Guide. We also talked about goat farms and beef jerky. It was a fun hour and a half.
I was especially pleased with the engagement from the 80 or so people in attendance, many of them foundation trustees themselves, and, as it seemed from the questions, many of them actively developing or designing impact investing strategies. I had to put aside half of my prepared questions for the panel because the audience kept asking their own – and their questions tackled hard issues and focused on what community foundations can bring to the broader impact investing table. The Council on Foundations labeled this an advanced mission investing discussion (“impact investing 201”) and it was. It felt like a field taking hold.
I will say more about this later, but for now, I’d also like to flag the recent publication by USSIF: the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment of “Expanding the Market for Community Investment in the United States,” a report on which we at the IRI and the Milken Institute collaborated. The report explores how new sources of capital might be brought into community investment, and the sorts of products and sectors that may be channels for that to happen.
David Wood is the director of the Initiative for Responsible Investing at Harvard University.
Philanthropy has the means to make strategic social investments to elevate the interests of America’s elders, especially for the over-65 U.S. Latino population. As the Baby Boom generation ages, there are increased opportunities and compelling strategies for addressing their needs.
Philanthropies can help create better paths for America’s seniors to thrive with their post-retirement choices. The ranks of U.S. Latino elders are expected to grow by 224 percent by 2030, and they often find themselves socially isolated, with low incomes and high needs of linguistically appropriate and culturally competent services.
As a group, Latino seniors have double the poverty rate of older Americans generally and are less likely than their non-Latino peers to qualify for Medicare and Social Security benefits. They have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well.
Reviewing social service strategies to help the older population is economically sound from an ounce of prevention health perspective, as well as a matter of equity in raising the quality of life for all of our low-income senior citizens. The country will also be better off by creating opportunities for those who wish to participate as community advocates, peer counselors, or childcare providers.
For older Latinos, service referrals often come by word of mouth from neighbors or friends of sons and daughters. When they’re lucky, they hear something like: “There’s a place where abuelitos (grandparents) can go to get social services or meet others like them.”
Other times an illness can lead to a social work referral. Vida Senior Centers participant “E.M.” was forced to quit his job, which required driving, when he underwent brain surgery. He was listless and disoriented after the surgery when he first visited the program in a leafy neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It provides bilingual social services, nutrition counseling, exercise sessions, and medication management, among other services.
He was assisted in his native language with medication management and transportation to medical appointments. He eventually was able to recover and start helping other Latino participants. He was even chosen by his peers to represent them as the King in their annual contest.
Vida Senior Centers is a former grantee of Hispanics in Philanthropy, which launched its Latino Aging Initiative in 2011 with a groundbreaking national survey, “The Latino Age Wave: What Changing Ethnic Demographics Mean for the Future of Aging in the United States.” It discussed opportunities for philanthropic investments to address the needs of this very rapidly growing population in culturally competent, linguistically appropriate ways.
Since publication of the study two years ago, HIP’s Funders Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities joined with the Rose Community Foundation, the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and other Colorado funders to create the Latino Age Wave Initiative, beginning in the Denver area. It has conducted an assessment of needs of older Latinos and its first class of senior fellows has bolstered its capacity.
In California earlier this year, The Atlantic Philanthropies, The California Wellness Foundation, and The SCAN Foundation funded HIP to create the California Latino Age Wave Initiative, which advocates on behalf of the needs of older Latinos and recently announced the appointment of its first round of three California Latino Age Wave Fellows, from Vallejo, Long Beach, and San Diego.
In each of the two states, a senior fellow is working on transportation training that helps isolated older Latinos regain the ability and confidence of being as mobile as possible by learning to plan trips on public transportation, read maps, and take advantage of low-cost transit.
”I didn’t know how empowering it could be for people who were no longer driving,” said California Senior Fellow Judi Bonilla. She implemented such a program for the La Mesa area of San Diego and hopes to replicate it countywide. “With mobility loss, everything changes. After 10 or 20 years, your sense of what you can be is diminished.”
The goals of the Hispanics in Philanthropy Aging Initiative are to:
HIP welcomes inquiries from donors interested in learning more about this work. It is expanding this and other initiatives as it plans to commemorate HIP’s 30th anniversary of successful strides on behalf of greater philanthropic funding and training for Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofits in the United States and Latin America, and increased hiring and promotion of Latinos in U.S. philanthropy.
For more information, please visit the HIP website at www.HIPonline.org or phone 415-837-0427.
Diana Campoamor is the President of Hispanics in Philanthropy, a national membership network of funders that seeks to increase resources for the Latino and Latin American civil sector, increase Latino participation and leadership in philanthropy, and foster policy change to enhance equity and inclusiveness.
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the law exempting charitable activity from taxation — now referred to as Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Over the last century, this exemption contributed, more than any other factor, to the development of a broad and diverse network of charitable organizations and foundations that today raise more than $300 billion annually. Given in large and small donations, this money supports the causes that matter to people living across the country: improving schools, feeding families, funding medical research, stewarding our air and water, and doing so much more.
Philanthropy has the unique ability to work across sectors, build consensus, and pool resources to make strategic investments in our communities. Leveraging private dollars and a shared interest in advancing the common good, philanthropic and charitable organizations remain open-for-business even when the government isn’t.
The current system of charitable incentives remains an important component of American life because it allows private dollars to go directly to those who need them most. It allows individuals to decide which issues matter and what their priorities are for the communities in which they live.
While furloughs shutter crucial government programs, charitable and philanthropic organizations carry on steadfast as always in their commitments to their communities. In a recent speech I gave before community foundation colleagues, I noted that “far from looking to the next business cycle, or the next election cycle, philanthropy is looking to the next generation.”
This anniversary provides an opportunity for us to consider the impact that charitable giving has had on our lives. A century ago, policy makers understood the important role that all Americans could play in shaping the fates of their own communities. They created the deduction because they knew that government could not always provide the right solution, and they wanted to encourage people to take an active role in building a better society.
The past hundred years of philanthropy leave us with an impressive legacy. It seems strange, but by the nature of the times we live in, we find ourselves needing to fight to preserve this fundamental and noble tradition. No one can say when Congress will finally resolve this budget mess, but let’s all hope that when they do they don’t rob our communities of philanthropic support.
Vikki Spruill is president and CEO of the Council on Foundations.
This article was originally published on the Interaction Institute Blog.
Last week I represented IISC as a presenter/facilitator in a “deep dive” session at the Council on Foundations Conference for Community Foundations. The title of the session was “Complete Capital”and was inspired by an SSIR article by the same title written by Antony Bugg-Levine of the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). Briefly, complete capital is a framework to help funders and other investors develop a fuller picture of the assets required to address complex social challenges: financial, intellectual, human, and social.
After presentations by Alison Gold of Living Cities (intellectual capital), Lisa Spinali (human capital) and Jessica LaBarbera of NFF (financial capital), and in the light of a couple of helpful case studies presented by Alison and Jessica, I offered a view of social capital that is more complex than what appears in the SSIR article. Why make it more complex? Because as much as there is talk about it, we still confront challenges when it comes to getting people to fully invest in ways that maximize social capital. And because in our experience there is so much more to the conversation, especially in the context of social change work, that goes beyond simple mention of collaboration and partnerships.
So I presented a more detailed picture by illustrating what would happen if we send the relatively narrowly defined concept of social capital through the “IISC prism” of collaborative capability building. This prism is composed of facets representing the “lenses” we bring to our collaborative capacity building work: networks, power/equity/inclusion, and love as a force for social transformation. The question guiding my brief presentation: As the light is refracted, what do we see as more nuanced, potentially overlooked, and critically valuable social assets that both support and constitute the work of social change?
First a bit more about our lenses:
With these in mind, if we follow the “beam” of social capital through the prism composed of these lenses, we might see it refracted into some of the following social assets, particularly with respect to our efforts to cultivate collaboration and networked ways of seeing and doing:
And when we look at some of the assets that manifest through the lens of dedicated work around power, equity, and inclusion:
Lastly, when we hold up the lens and practice of cultivating love as a force for social transformation, we might see some of the following assets:
Initial reaction in the conference session seemed to be very positive, inspiring conversation about the need and desire to focus more squarely onracial inequities and privilege in our institutions and communities, pay attention to some of the “squishier” yet very critical aspects of social capital as seen through the lens of love, and a desire to keep the conversation going, in networked fashion!
To be clear, this breakdown of social capital is not meant to be exhaustive and is very much a work in progress. That said, in our experience at IISC, these are some of the critical assets necessary not only for supporting work towards, but also constituting, social change. We also recognize that there isdynamic interplay and reinforcement that occurs across these lenses, such that the assets enhance one another, often significantly, and removing one lens diminishes overall value, often significantly.
Our hope is that our lenses will bring greater validation for, interest in, and commitment to cultivating more robust social capital for just and thriving communities. How we go about doing this effectively is our ongoing question and work at IISC and is addressed in reflections on our blog as well as in our trainings and consulting engagements. And we are interested in knowing about others’ challenges and successes around cultivating more complete social capital. We look forward to hearing your stories and reactions.
Curtis Ogden is a senior associate at the Interaction Institute for Social Change.
Throughout the fall conference, I had been prefacing every comment or question, every new introduction, with “I’m brand new, only six weeks in as a program officer.” I heard many others, too, more than I expected, who are only a few months, or, in several cases, a few days into the incredible (and exciting and overwhelming) world of community foundations. The plenaries, the sessions, and especially the colleagues at our tables from all across the country were our education this week.
I started saying “I’m brand new” to mean “I don’t know anything yet,” but perhaps instead of apologizing for my lack of direct experience in a community foundation, I should have used “I’m brand new” to mean “I believe anything is possible.” I thought I would leave the conference with a better understanding of the rules of community foundations, the way things have worked and should work for grantmaking and community engagement and donor relations (and I have), but I also can’t stop thinking about what could be. As Gabriel Pastor brilliantly stated at Tuesday morning’s plenary on “What’s Next for Community Philanthropy,” there is no business model for community foundations. There is only what we have made it, and what we, as individual community foundations working in our unique communities, continue to make it as we face new issues, new challenges, and new opportunities.
The world is in constant transformation. We are in constant transformation. And it’s the dozens of us who are new to the field that need to temper meeting the mold and expectations of our roles with the fearlessness to bring new ideas to the table and expand what it means to be the foundation of a community. We need to continue challenging orthodoxies such as “the community comes to us, not vice versa” and “money is our most important asset” as we return home because, well, aren’t people the core of our work? Aren’t people, both us as staff and the community—the citizens—we serve, the reason the important work gets done?
On the precipice of the centennial of community foundations next year, we all can be brand new. Every day is an opportunity for fearlessness, for redefining our roles in the communities we love.
The Center for Effective Philanthropy recently released a report titled Working Well With Grantees, and as any program officer might expect, the importance of the relationships that nonprofit applicants and grantees have with program officers is crucial to their perception of the foundation. Not surprisingly, negative experiences like those chronicled in the report can have real consequences for both the foundation and the nonprofit.
In Tuesday’s workshop on the topic, in which the break-out discussions on declining applications, post-grant assistance and funder-grantee relationships were positively dubbed by a number of my co-participants as “group therapy,” I started to think about why certain grantees interviewed by CEP would have cause to make comments about site visits turning to “interrogations,” or to describe communications from program staff as “irresponsible,” “snippy,” and down-right “rude.” Is this the kind of communication funders would expect from nonprofits? Are relationships based on the dynamics of (perceived) power and pompousness getting funders results or advancing the work of the nonprofits they fund? Why does it seem like funders too often forget that the money they grant to nonprofits is – at least in the case of community foundations – not their own, but entrusted to them by others for the betterment of their community?
As many of us pointed out in the session, our program departments often have little capacity; our “caseloads” are too big, and our time to tend to everyone is too short. Since this is very often true, I propose funders craft a general set of guidelines to keep in mind when dealing with nonprofits, whether as potential applicants, declined applicants or grantees. It could be called, The Applicants’ Bill of Rights, and include such rights as the right to:
1.Timely responses from staff when making inquiries about grant funding.
2.Notification of changes in program staff responsible for their grant or application.
3.Transparency in criteria in plain language.
4.Opportunities to talk to program staff about questions and concerns regarding applications, reporting and other grant-related issues.
5.Voice concerns to program staff supervisors when they feel their needs are being overlooked.
6.Give honest feedback on the grant application processes without fear of being penalized for their honesty.
7.Freedom from unrealistic reporting expectations and timelines.
8.Constructive feedback on applications when at all possible.
9.Notification that applications, reports and other communications have been received and a general what they can expect next.
10.Respectful communication from funders, whether in person or otherwise.
I could go on, and in truth, I hate to think of the instances where I have treated applicants with anything less than kindness and appreciation for the work they are trying to do. Wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace for a nonprofit to feel empowered and appreciated instead of apologetic and fearful when approaching funders?
What might you include in an applicants’ bill of rights? I bet if you ask nonprofits for suggestions, they’ll be more than happy to tell you.
Ashley Harper is Director of Grants and Initiatives at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.
Government officials, philanthropists, and foundation staff often discuss the importance of providing services to our veterans and their families. However, we don’t often link the importance of those services to protecting the all voluntary military force. Today’s working lunch emphasized the importance of supporting our volunteers and then did a deeper dive on exactly how we do that through public-private partnership.
The McCormick Foundation shared their experience partnering with Major League Baseball Charities on the Welcome Back Veterans program. The program connects returning veterans to services, especially PTSD treatment.
The San Diego Grantmakers Association recognized that their role in veterans support was to be a neutral convener that brings people together to do stuff better and then to share what they learned so that the community can keep improving their work.
The Lincoln Community Foundation shared how a 2010 Council on Foundations conference speaker’s call to action to reach out to veterans informed the work they are presenting on at this year’s conference. They reminded us that community foundations must know who their veterans are before we can serve them.
The Philanthropy Roundtable’s Thomas Meyer reminded us that veterans are assets to our communities and that when we connect with them to utilize their knowledge and talents, we strengthen our community.
Sharing our work led to honest group discussion regarding what public-private partners need to know about each other to work together toward common goals.
Col. James Isenhower III, Director, Warrior and Family Support Office reassured community foundations that the military recognizes public-private partnership is an effective way to serve members of the military who are transitioning into civilian life. He shared examples of successful partnerships and recognized the challenges of adapting public and private sector systems to create collaborative programs. Col. Isenhower announced a White Paper reflecting his comments and the Warrior and Family Support Office’s commitment to public-private partnership.
With honest dialogue and commitment among our public-private partners to question and improve our systems for working together, the session ended on a hopeful note that public-private partnership will get easier and demonstrate greater impact if we all commit to celebrating successes and working through challenges together. The Council will continue to support the work of our members by creating an online Community of Practice for Veterans Philanthropy.
Lara Kalwinski is Policy & Strategy Associate, Director of National Standards at the Council on Foundations.
I attended the “What is place-based philanthropy?” site visit, and it got me thinking about the role of private business in community foundation projects. There are fruitful relationships and productive roles we could do more to develop, and San Diego has some interesting models.
We visited “urban village” development projects run by Price Charities (in City Heights) and by the Jacobs Foundation (in Market Creek). These are unusual roles for foundations to play; they’re acting as real estate developers, and their offices are located in the neighborhoods they’re rebuilding. They engage residents to design the urban spaces, including retail, services, and community centers. And they work with those vendors to decide who will be located where.
In City Heights, Price pursued a “compass” strategy, starting with a retail plaza hub and developing housing in targeted areas north, south, east, and west of the hub. The hope was that for-profit developers would “fill in” the space between the compass points and the hub. But response so far has been slow, because Price is looking for developers to be engaged at least somewhat in the social mission of the work, and many developers want to be absentee landlords and not take a hands-on role. Overcoming that disconnect will be a challenge as the project evolves.
In the Village at Market Creek, Jacobs created a retail plaza. They asked residents what they wanted. Residents observed there had not been a new grocery store in the neighborhood since the fifties. Jacobs bid out to grocery chains like Ralph’s, with little initial response. Finally, a lesser-known national chain called Food 4 Less stepped up. It’s now the most successful location of that chain in the region.
I came away wanting to know more about the “program officer equivalent” in other sectors - who within companies decides the siting of retail locations? Bank loan officers make similar decisions at a smaller scale, evaluating opportunities and rendering judgments about resources people want. Are these people on the radar screens of community foundations? Shouldn’t they be fundamental partners in community development projects.
Such engagement can and should involve residents, and the results can be surprising for those of us steeped in nonprofit culture. In the Village at Market Creek, the developers from Jacobs set a goal of one-third local businesses in the retail plaza. They thought a local coffee chain could be a good option, with more affordable prices. Respondents said “nope, we want Starbucks like people downtown have.” Aspiration is an important part of community development, and a sense of fairness - “we want what everyone wants.” Familiar retail brand names can powerfully symbolize these ambitions. In both communities, Walmart has been a controversial potential presence for similar reasons. And that Starbucks location? It’s thriving.
It’s worth questioning our assumptions about the kinds of value different types of private businesses provide, and how they might be partners in community development.
How do you partner with private business in your community foundation? What new approaches have you been trying or might you try?
Join in the conversation by commenting below, or by tweeting @COF_ #COF13.
Chris Cardona is Director of Philanthropy for TCC Group.
A packed room came to hear how community foundations are successfully listening and responding to their communities. The work we heard about was innovative, sometimes controversial, and completely inspiring.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) facilitated conversation about the work of 12 community foundations from across the country. The community foundations’ were highlighted for their outstanding work that can be replicated by their colleagues nationwide.
We understand some conference attendees were unable to hear the session. Here are brief descriptions of the projects based on the press release from NCRP, community foundation websites, and the information shared at the session:
Foundation for Louisiana: President and CEO Flozell Daniels shared his foundation’s work on Investing in Citizen Engagement. The Foundation believes that residents play a critical role in planning the future of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. They offer citizen guides on land use and urban design as well as hosting sessions to share how to activate the community and create a community agenda based on neighborhood dialogue.
California Community Foundation: President and CEO Antonia Hernandez shared that LA has immigrants representing every single country in the world. Therefore, regardless of where each community member is from, the integration of immigrants is, a critical issue for L.A. CCF advocates for immigrant integration through sustained community engagement and collaboration. CCF’s success includes a multi-sector 35-member Council on Immigration Integration, grants to community-based organization that develop leadership skills among immigrant resident, and research to provide facts that help set the context and framework for their work.
Marin Community Foundation: In mixed income communities, sometimes it is difficult for community members to identify and understand the issues their neighbors face. Marin Community Foundation recognized that the community needed facts on the issues their neighbors were facing so that the community foundation could create opportunities to dialogue about those issues. They commissioned research and reported the findings back to the community. As a result of sharing facts, the community has better conversation about how to meet the needs of their neighbors and the community foundation has better information on how to utilize grant dollars to meet community needs.
The Cleveland Foundation: Cleveland Foundation is proud to be the largest sponsor of the Gay Games. The Games is the largest international sports and culture festival in the world open to all participants. Involvement provides us the community foundation to express our strong support for social justice and equality for the LGBT community. The foundation recognized the broad community support for the Games. As a result of the partnership between Cleveland Foundation and the Gay Games, an LGBT field-of-interest fund is being established at the foundation.
Greater New Orleans Foundation: The IMPACT program’s goal is to create a resilient, sustainable, vibrant, and equitable region in which individuals and families flourish and where the special character of the New Orleans region and its people is preserved, celebrated, and given means to develop. The grants combine much needed financial support for nonprofit services with learning among the community, nonprofits and foundations. This learning leads to a better understanding of who the neighborhood-known community leaders are.
Boston Foundation: The Boston Foundation led a partnership that commissioned a report on mass transportation in the City of Boston. The report aptly titled The Cost of Doing Nothing addresses the economic and social costs when municipalities don’t invest in transportation. The report agitated community conversation and focused community activism resulting in new transit stops.
Silicon Valley Community Foundation: Silicon Valley Community Foundation combines research, advocacy efforts, and grantmaking strategy to stop payday lending. The community foundation supports organizations working to pass local ordinances curtailing payday loans and raise public awareness about their dangers.
East Bay Community Foundation: East Bay Community Foundation has a public-private partnership team that provides a framework for their innovative work. EBCF connects and leverages efforts to help low-income families get a financial leg up and to help adults acquire skills and find good jobs. Recognizing the persistent economic and educational disparities in the East Bay – a local symptom of a nationwide problem — they focused on good jobs and the education that leads to them. Through locally-based research and deep partnerships with job-training and economic-development programs that get results and are respected in their community, EBCF promote pathways to economic security for East Bay residents with barriers to employment.
North Star Fund: Within 24 hours of Hurrican Sandy, it was clear that the immediate response to the storm was being handled by community-based organizations at the neighborhood level. North Star Fund established the Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund to help the most vulnerable communities recover. The Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund is unique in prioritizing organizations led by communities most affected by injustice.
Minnesota Community Foundation: GiveMN.org helps grow charitable giving and make it more efficient by moving more of it online. GiveMN helps people connect with worthy organizations and manage their charitable giving. GiveMN also provides nonprofit organizations with free online profiles and tools to help them engage donors and tell their stories. GiveMN is a collaborative venture that was conceived and initiated by the board of Minnesota Community Foundation. It has strong partner support from foundations across the state, including The Saint Paul Foundation, the Otto Bremer Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation.
Lara Kalwinski is Policy & Strategy Associate, Director of National Standards at the Council on Foundations
At the “Trends and Realities” plenary, the panelists all recognized economic issues in their communities as being among those things that kept them up at night. But my biggest take-away came from Mariam Noland, President of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. When she noted that “Detroit is bankrupt only in the sense that it has no money,” I was reminded that a lack of money is not a problem of the same magnitude as a lack of creativity, or passion, or culture, or caring, or initiative, or strength of character, or work-ethic. With many of these other things in place (and an amazing community foundation, of course) the money issue can be improved over time. Hope can be alive and well in any community if the bankruptcy is only financial. Thanks, Mariam, for the timely reminder!
Denise K. Spencer is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.
This blog was originally posted on bolderadvocacy.org
Across the country, community foundations are recognizing the power of public policy work to advance their missions. Some do so by awarding grants for advocacy activities like public education and research. Others support nonprofits to lobby. And many others engage in advocacy themselves by taking positions on issues they care about.
How many of these actions to support advocacy has your foundation taken? Tally up your score and scroll to the end for explanations.
__1. Give Grants for Lobbying. As public charities, community foundations can participate in and support lobbying. Unlike private foundations that are generally restricted from lobbying, community foundations can lobby themselves and may fund a limited amount of lobbying. Community foundations may earmark funds for lobbying; however, earmarked grants will count against the public foundation’s lobbying limit (See #3). Learn more: Community Foundations and Advocacy
__2. Remove Restrictive Language from Grant Agreements. Many foundations include unnecessarily restrictive language in grant agreement letters that prohibit their grantees from using grant funds for “any propaganda or attempt to influence legislation.” Such language is overly restrictive and may undermine the grantee’s ability to effectively and efficiently achieve its goals.
__3. Make the 501(h) Election. The 501(h) election is a straightforward way for a community foundation to measure how much it spends on lobbying itself — or on grants earmarked for lobbying. The advantage of the 501(h) election lies in the fact that it:
As an added bonus, by electing 501(h), community foundations should then be able to take advantage of the guidance AFJ received from the IRS. For these reasons, the 501(h) election provides a clear picture of the amount a foundation may spend to influence legislation without losing its exempt status or incurring penalty taxes. Learn more: How to Use the 501(h) Election
__4. Support Election-Related Activities. Community foundations, like all public charities, are absolutely prohibited from engaging in activity that supports or opposes a candidate for public office. Community foundations may, however, support nonpartisan voter education activity (i.e., candidate education, get-out-the-vote, and voter registration activities). While private foundations have special restrictions for funding voter registration activities, these restrictions are not applicable to community foundations. Learn more: Foundation Support for Election-Related Activities
__5. Support Charitable Activities of Social Welfare Organizations and Unions. Community foundations are permitted to fund the work of nonpublic charities, including 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and unions, if it is an activity that the foundation could participate in itself. For example, a community foundation could provide a grant to a 501(c)(4) organization to engage in nonpartisan voter registration activity but could not provide a grant to the same organization to produce a partisan voter guide because the community foundation is not allowed to support or oppose candidates for office. Learn more: Supporting the Social Welfare: Giving to 501(c)(4) Organizations
__6. Fund a Variety of Advocacy Activities. At any one time, successful advocacy efforts require one or more activities. In some cases, all of the above- mentioned activities might be utilized in a far-reaching campaign. Target audiences and the avenues used for affecting change (such as the executive, judicial, or legislative branch, or the electoral process) will vary. Factors such as public opinion, state budgets, and elections also have a great impact, requiring organizations to be flexible and open to changing strategies.
__7. Engage in Advocacy as a Foundation. Finally, community foundations can engage in advocacy themselves. For example, a community foundation could build relationships with legislators or help grantees build and sustain these relationships. A foundation could convene nonprofits and decision-makers to discuss a pressing problem (e.g., a failing school system, poverty, pollution). A foundation could write an amicus brief in a lawsuit or lobby on a particular piece of legislation or ballot measure. Learn more: Public Foundations Can Lobby
Explore the role of community foundations and advocacy during these sessions at the 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations:
The Power of Advocacy… Tuesday 1030-12
State of the States… Tuesday 1-2:30
Learn more about how your foundation can make an impact through policy work. Download or order a copy of Bolder Advocacy’s handbook: Investing in Change
Susan Hoechstetter is a Senior Advisor, Foundation Advocacy & Evaluation, with the Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy initiative.
While folks here in California are no strangers to the earth moving beneath their feet, they are currently witnessing a seismic shift of another kind. Earlier this year, for the first time, the population of Latinos in California equaled the number of whites. And by early 2014, California will likely become the second state in which Latinos are the largest racial or ethnic group (New Mexico being the first).
As the population shifts, so too must the mindset and make-up of foundations and philanthropic organizations. A failure to do so risks alienating a new generation of leaders and donors who are coming of age in this new demographic landscape, but do not see it reflected in the philanthropic community.
According to the State of the Work report authored by the D5 Coalition, which seeks to grow diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, only 4 percent of foundations have a Latino president or CEO, while only 7 percent of foundation boards/trustees are Latino. This underrepresentation could help explain why, according to the Foundation Center, U.S. foundation giving designated to benefit Latinos comprised only 1 percent of total foundation funding in the first decade of this century, despite the growth of the Latino population.
The problem of this underrepresentation could create a chasm between philanthropic organizations and the next generation of leaders with the energy and ideas required to tackle the challenges we face. If an organization’s boardroom lacks inclusiveness and diversity, the emerging leaders and donors may look for other channels through which to address challenges.
This disconnect comes at a critical time for the Latino community. The national Latino unemployment rate stands at 9.4 percent—two full percentage points higher than the national rate. And while the Pew Research Center has found that the college enrollment rate of Latino high school graduates is at a record high, Latinos are less likely to be enrolled in a 4-year institution, enrolled in college full-time or complete a bachelor’s degree.
The example of the growing Latino community is just one example of our shifting demographics. I am encouraged by the fact that we do have multi-generational leaders focused on keeping philanthropy ahead of the game. Their insights into how important diversity, equity, and inclusion are to this next generation of leaders are an essential part of the conversation we will have during the Council on Foundation’s Fall Conference in San Diego. California’s seismic demographic shift provides the perfect backdrop against which to have this discussion.
To stay ahead of these trends, we need to better commit to the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. By bringing new voices and expertise to the table, philanthropy is more effective at advancing the common good, more reflective of the current landscape and more relevant to the next generation of leaders and donors working to promote the common good.
Kelly Brown is the Director of the D5 Coalition.
One of the most pressing topics for community foundations is the reinvention of their position as catalysts for change. Foundations are increasingly taking on new, proactive roles within their communities, capitalizing on their ability to lead and advocate. They are independent and unencumbered by political affiliation or private interests. They are uniquely positioned to take the long view on communities’ growth and progress. As community foundations delve into these new roles, it is important that we take stock of where we are and use data and community input as the base on which to drive forward innovation within our organizations.
The “A Tale of Two Cities” session at the 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations will examine our foundations’ approaches to data-driven philanthropy. The Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital Signs Report provides an annual snapshot of the city’s quality of life and identifies opportunities to provide long-term solutions. Using Vital Signs as a model, The Miami Foundation launched Our Miami: Soul of the City to provide greater focus for the Foundation’s work and build a Miami that attracts and retains young, talented people. Conducting in-depth research has guided programming at both of our foundations, making us more thoughtful about how and why we tackle particular issues. It connects the head to the heart in the community work we do.
Community foundations become strategic knowledge centers for philanthropy when they use research and data to uncover a community’s needs. We invite you to come learn about an international collaboration that developed data-driven philanthropy models in Canada and the U.S. The conversation will cover our parallel journeys building community awareness, doing diagnostic analysis, launching innovative communications campaigns and, ultimately, creating new programmatic frameworks.
Guiding the discussion will be input on your community’s biggest challenges and how you think data-driven philanthropy can address them. Share them on Twitter and Facebook using the #philanthrodata hashtag. We’ll review your posts before the session and show how quantitative methods help develop impactful solutions.
2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations
A Tale of Two Cities: How Miami and Toronto Use Data to Drive the Art of Giving
Tuesday, September 24
4 – 5:15 p.m.
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego – Manchester C, Second Level
Connect with fellow attendees before the session and share ideas: #philanthrodata and #COF13
Javier Alberto Soto is president and CEO of The Miami Foundation and Rahul K. Bhardwaj is president & CEO of Toronto Community Foundation
What: Learning Lab, Key Tools to Weave a Richer Civic Fabric
When: Monday, September 23, 2013 (4:45pm-5:15pm)
Where: Elizabeth Foyer, Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
It is crucial to have a broad base of civically engaged citizens who have positive relationships with public agencies and community decision-makers to address the complex problems that communities currently face. However, the growing perception of the government as ineffective and the decline in civic engagement activities makes addressing these complex problems that much more difficult.
The current political landscape offers foundations both opportunities and challenges. As governmental reach declines in our communities, community foundations need to be more pro-active to help bridge the gap between communities and political decision makers. But we can’t approach it the same way as before. We need to better understand our community’s map of political interest so we can strategically work towards strengthening our civic ecosystem. At the 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations, a learning lab, Key Tools to Weave a Richer Civic Fabric, will introduce three civic engagement technology models and how community and place-based foundations can position themselves to make a difference in the civic landscape.
Participate in the conversation before, during, and after the conference by leaving your comments here.
BH Kim is Executive Director of The San Diego Center for Civic Engagement at The San Diego Foundation (twitter: @TSDFbhk).
Are you making technology harder than it needs to be?
If you are in an executive leadership position at a community foundation, the answer to this question is probably yes. Why is that? Why do we cringe, ever so slightly, when we hear the word? Technology often seems overwhelming and complicated. And much of the technology we need today is based in an online environment, which adds to our perception of its complexity. So we are sometimes tempted to delegate technology to the people on our teams who have more detailed expertise than we do.
But we have to start thinking differently.
Technology is everywhere, and in many ways it drives the success of our foundations. Consider the dictionary’s definition of “technology” as “a manner of accomplishing a task, especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.” That covers a lot of ground!
In today’s community foundations, the technology required to manage hundreds of donor accounts, thousands of grants to nonprofits, and millions of dollars is a very big deal. When you make a decision about your foundation’s software systems, your job is not to make—or delegate—a technology decision that is consistent with your foundation’s business strategy. Instead, your responsibility is to make a strategic business decision that involves technology. And there is a big difference. In the first case, you are assigning technology a status of non-mission critical. In the second case, you are recognizing today’s market reality that technology is absolutely mission critical. It is time to get comfortable making technology decisions, or at least embracing your role as a necessary and active participant in that decision. But how, exactly, do you justify the investment in technology?
Crown Philanthropic Solutions 2013 CEO Whitepaper Series has stirred increasing discussions recently regarding the overall impact of the “technology spend” within a foundation, and more critically: How to best evaluate the impact of - and return on, that investment.
During your trip to San Diego we invite you join us for a discussion around the impact of technology spend, lead by Laura Wells McKnight, former CEO of Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. During our Learning Lab, Five Top Insights into the ROI Debate: Balancing Donor Engagement and Financial Impact, you will learn 5 key measurements that our clients have reported are crucial to an accurate evaluation of technology. The discussion will highlight how breakthrough technology has transformed the way community foundations operate, and the experience they offer to their donors. Most importantly, you will hear real-life accounts on what has changed for these foundations for the better, and how even the smallest details in a robust technology platform can make a huge difference to your staff’s time and donor experience.
If you are interested in learning more, please join our session on Tuesday, September 24th from 2:45-3:15 pm. You can also stop and visit Crown Philanthropic Solutions at booth #27. See you in San Diego!
Josephine Sinclair is the Marketing & Communications Director for Crown Philanthropic Solutions, LLC. To learn more about Crown and DonorFirst, visit www.crownps.com.
Today, Council on Foundations president and CEO Vikki Spruill is in New York City to talk with the board of Realdania about trends in American philanthropy and how we can leverage transatlantic partnerships in the field. Today’s meeting complements the Council’s existing efforts, such as co-founding the Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative (GPLI) with Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) and the European Foundation Centre (EFC).
American philanthropy is more involved than ever in international aid and development, and US international charitable giving has overtaken the official foreign assistance budget (PDF link). Philanthropy is more global than ever. For this reason, the Council is eager to find ways to make cross-border giving easier and more effective. International funders have to contend with inconsistent legal and tax frameworks across countries, and they must find ways to further cooperate with multilateral institutions.
The GPLI has already led to concrete efforts, including global initiatives to support sustainable cities and to promote civil society in transitioning countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Efforts are also underway to develop an index of cross-border giving which would rank countries on their openness to receiving international funds.
Of course, as the philanthropic field takes on a larger role in international development, it is imperative that we promote transparency and accountability. The Council worked with the EFC to develop four principles that should govern international giving. Accordingly, foundations involved in cross border grantmaking should:
1. Uphold their core mission in a manner that is consistent with the wishes of your benefactors, donors, or corporation;
2. Serve the public good as defined by national laws and international conventions in their own country and the recipient country;
3. Engage and inform their stakeholders with respect to their intentions and decision-making processes, and provide a mechanism for input and feedback from those affected; and
4. Assure positive impact through their grantmaking and operating activities with respect to the people and communities affected by their interventions.
Today’s meeting, and others like it, serves to build upon these existing structures of international cooperation and sustains the dialog between foundations the world over.
Andrew Ho is manager for global philanthropy at the Council on Foundations. Follow him on Twitter at @andyho.
The philanthropic goals of being a servant leader and achieving greater return-on-investment are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we believe they are intertwined. At the Council on Foundations Conference on Community Foundations in San Diego, come explore these ideas in a highly interactive session, “Serve to Solve: 4 Funder Strategies to Improve Returns-on-Investment & Partnerships.”
First, I will share data on four philanthropic strategies that foster greater return-on-investment while helping foundations become stronger servant leaders, which then helps strengthen nonprofit-funder relationships. We will also take a look at which community foundations across the country are pursuing these strategies.
Second, I will be joined by James Head, vice president of programs at the San Francisco Foundation; Janet Y. Spears, COO at the East Bay Community Foundation; Jennifer Rice, director of community strategies at the Humboldt Area Foundation; and Patrick Horvath, director of economic opportunity & strengthening neighborhoods at the Denver Foundation.
Each speaker has prepared two stories to share about their successes and challenges. The audience will vote on which of the two stories each presenter should share. Majority rules! Each panelist will then have a few minutes to answer the following questions about the story the audience chose: (1) What is a major challenge faced by your foundation and community? (2) What marginalized community did you focus on and why? (3) What strategy did you focus on and why? (4) What were the results and advice you’d give others?
Then, the audience gets to vote again on whether we will have extended Q&A or small table discussions.
Come join us!
Christine Reeves is a senior field associate for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
A few weeks ago, I conducted research to prepare for a teleconference and revisited a website to print information for the meeting. Using the Google search engine, I found the link to the page and clicked on it. To my dismay, a “Page Not Found” message was displayed. Looking for a solution, I started searching cached pages. For those unfamiliar with Google’s cache, Google crawls the web and takes snapshots of web pages that it visits. According to Google, these snapshots serve as a backup just in case the current web page isn’t available.
In my own situation, I successfully used Google’s cache to find the information needed. For those of you who need to conduct research on the job, the lessons I learned from this experience may help you access hard-to-find information due to site updates.
1. How to access cache links within the Google search engine (using Chrome)
As of this writing, when you conduct a search within Google you’ll be presented with a list of search engine results. Next to the site address listed below each link, you should see a small inverted pyramid you can click on. If a cached option is available, click on it. If still available, you should see the cached copy of the page.
While this method usually works, in this case, I came across an “Error 404” message that indicated the information wasn’t available. While this was disappointing, the link information provided was important in my next step.
2. Using the cache option within the address bar in the Google Chrome web browser
As I was determined to find the information even though my initial search had failed, I came across a webpage that discussed how to conduct cache searches with the Google Chrome browser. As I use Chrome on my own computer, I decided to type in cache: and used the link information provided in the last step to enter the necessary link address. After a couple of quick tries, I realized I had to snip off small sections from the beginning and ending parts of the link address provided in the last step. After completing this, I was able to retrieve the old record of the now removed webpage that provided me with the information needed.
If your organization is interested in removing out-of-date information from Google’s cache, you can make use of a special link that Google offers to request removal of a cached page. If Google approves your request, they will remove the the page from their cache.
In conclusion, the cached option can help researchers find important information. For organizations interested in only current information being shown in results on a major search engine like Google, you may also want to consider requesting removal of content from Google’s cache in addition to updating content on your server.
Sophia Guevara is the former chair for the Consortium of Foundation Libraries
Earlier this year, Project Streamline – an initiative of the Grants Managers Network – released Practices That Matter: Taking Stock of Streamlining. Five years after our initial exploration of the burdens of application and reporting, Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose, this new report assesses the state of streamlining in the field and identifies the practices that matter most.
Streamlining’s simple premise: the cumulative impact of grantmakers’ distinct and often laborious application and reporting requirements undermines nonprofit effectiveness, causing grantseekers to devote too much time to seeking funding (often without payoff) and reporting on grants (often without benefit) to the detriment of their mission-based work.
Project Streamline helps grantmakers understand and reduce the burden of application and reporting on their nonprofit partners, while still getting the information they need to make good grantmaking decisions.
What Matters Most?
Want to minimize the burden you impose? Here’s what matters most to grantees:
1. Online application and reporting systems that work well, gather the right information, and store information from application to reporting, and from year-to-year.
Online application and reporting is both inevitable and positive, but systems have to work! Unfortunately, many are still full of bugs and glitches that waste grantseeker time.
2. Budget and financial reporting requirements that allow grantseekers to maintain their own financial categories.
Many funders still require templates and specific formats for financials. These templates tend to promote error, mask important capacity issues, and ignore the fact that budgets’ main purpose is a management tool for the nonprofit itself.
3. Clear and regular communications, including responsiveness to phone and email inquiries.
Grantseekers particularly value clear, specific, and revealing guidelines that help them determine whether it is or is not worth their time to apply for a grant. They want to communicate with a real person and be able to offer honest feedback about grantmakers’ practices.
4. Staged processes with techniques like a brief and simple letter of inquiry (or online inquiry form) prior to inviting a full proposal from groups most likely to receive funding.
Nonprofits spend large amounts of time writing proposals that have a small chance of success. Clear funding priorities and guidelines, concise letters of inquiry, and strong eligibility screens can reduce the number of unfitting requests grantmakers receive, saving everyone time and money.
5. Simplified application for repeat or renewal grants
“Right sized” requirements are appropriate to the size and type of grant and the prior relationship between grantmaker and grantseeker. One easy right-sizing opportunity is to streamline applications for repeat or renewal grants. This allows grantees to focus more energy on their work, rather than on pro-forma application requirements.
Project Streamline believes that it’s possible to gather information and conduct due-diligence in ways that support, rather than detract from, grantseeker success.
· Tell us your streamlining story: how do you make sure you get what you need without imposing an unnecessary burden?
· For more information, read Practices That Matter and find other tools – including a free self-assessment, the Project Streamline Blog, an interactive quiz and “Making More Time for Mission” a snappy report summary – at www.projectstreamline.org .
Jessica Bearman is a consultant to Project Streamline with the Grants Managers Network.
The shootings in Newtown, prison overcrowding, disproportionate minority confinement and Attorney General Holder’s recent advocacy for increased judicial discretion for “low level” offenders have placed increased pressure on community foundations to respond to new community and policy realities. Three leading foundation executives and the director of San Diego’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention will spotlight the wide range of routes the foundation community can take into the violence prevention/gun violence reduction arena during the 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations. Led by Jack Calhoun, Senior Consultant to the National League of Cities and to the U.S. Department of Justice and former U.S. Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, the panel will discuss why many foundations have been reluctant to support work in this area, and what has overcome their reluctance. Foundations supporting such initiatives as mentoring, after school programs, early childhood education, family support, job training, and community development now realize that their investments are vitiated by fear of or actual presence of violence. The audience will have the opportunity to provide recommendation to the foundation community as a whole, and to the Council on Foundations.
Highly interactive, the session will conclude with audience-led breakout sessions in three areas:
Participate in the conversation before, during, and after the conference by leaving your comments here.
Jack Calhoun is a Senior Consultant to the National League of Cities.
Last week a member of U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ staff called to ask for my help. Senator Collins, who is the ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, was launching a newsletter focused on the issue of aging. She wanted to be sure to cover the most important and interesting topics in Maine, which has one of the oldest populations of any U.S. state.
My suggestion caught the staffer by surprise. Apparently no one else had proposed a focus on older adults as a community asset. It’s easy to rattle off the litany of issues and challenges elders in our largely rural state deal with every single day: inadequate health care, unreliable transportation, insufficient money to pay for winter heating fuel, expensive prescription drugs, depression, loneliness, and more.
Contrast this endless list with what I also know to be true: Many older adults and other soon-to-be retired sixty-somethings are ready for another career. Many boast an abundance of energy, knowledge, experience, and skills to give back to our communities. Maine’s former Governor, Angus King, is a good example. He won his race for the U.S. Senate for the first time last year at the tender age of 68!
I recently attended the annual American Folk Festival, a three-day celebration of music from around the world held in Bangor, Maine, run by—you guessed it—mostly volunteers. Folk Festival volunteers serve on the board of directors, raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to run the event, handle many of the logistics, and then direct traffic, manage crowds, and collect contributions on fair day.
These men and women stood apart for a couple of reasons. They were the friendliest bunch of people I’ve come across in a long time; they all wore bright yellow t-shirts with the word VOLUNTEER plastered on the back in big letters (dead giveaway); and many made me feel young at the age of 65. These septu- and octogenarians give proof to the adage that older adults are among a community’s most important assets. Maybe it’s time to start spreading the word.
The Maine Community Foundation has spent the last several years engaging older adults as community leaders. Our program, funded primarily by The Atlantic Philanthropies and delivered in partnership with the University of Maine Center on Aging, has helped older adults give back to their communities as volunteers working on issues of smart growth, as citizen reporters, and, most recently, as community organizers in the area of food insecurity. They have built walking and hiking trails, produced videos to promote downtown economic development, and organized community gardens.
As rewarding as these efforts have been, we also know that we in Maine cannot rely solely on future generations for leadership because there simply won’t be enough of them to go around. So, in Maine and across the country, let’s figure out more ways to engage our older adults. They’ve got a lot to give. And we have even more to gain.
Meredith Jones is President & CEO of the Maine Community Foundation, and a participant in the national Community Experience Partnership. At the Council on Foundation’s 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations from September 23 – 25, 2013 in San Diego, Meredith and colleagues from throughout the U.S. will be discussing strategies and lessons learned through a six-year community foundation initiative
focused on engaging older adults to lead local change.
Today, Susan Taylor Batten, president and CEO of the Association of Black Foundation Executives, co-authored an editorial with Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. Read the full article over at the Nonprofit Quarterly.
Fifty years ago yesterday, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom inspired and unified millions. That it rose above the hatred and vitriol that was gripping the nation made it all the more powerful. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, iconic “I Have a Dream” speech made it clear that the civil rights movement was a struggle for more than the repeal of hateful laws and the reversal of backwards thinking. The movement was about creating economic opportunity and democratic engagement for all Americans, regardless of skin color.
Foundations and philanthropists played a key role in supporting the civil rights movement. Using grantmaking institutions, passionate individuals could engage what were controversial issues and advocate for change. (Continued at NPQ)
Sometimes small grants can have surprisingly large effects, and advance your mission with unexpected potency. Case in point: the Northwest Area Foundation made a $50,000 grant to support the work of the Growing Transit Communities partnership in the Central Puget Sound Region. Planners needed funds to analyze areas of opportunity and access in Seattle. They believed the findings could impact housing and transportation projects planned to revitalize low-income neighborhoods through the Sustainable Communities Initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Our support made it possible for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University to conduct a geographic analysis known as opportunity mapping. They probed housing, neighborhood quality, transportation, jobs, health care, and education. The results, in the form of colorful “opportunity maps,” illuminated a disturbing truth: low-income families of color tended to be geographically segregated from areas of opportunity. Steve Fredrickson, the advocacy coordinator with the Northwest Justice Project, told us, “Mapping tells the story of poverty and opportunity better than raw data on an Excel spreadsheet could ever do.”
The findings couldn’t have come at a better time. Seattle is planning billions of dollars in voter-approved transit investments over the next five to 15 years, and the maps could influence important decisions. Planners are consulting the data in their quest to increase opportunity in low-income neighborhoods and create easier access to prosperous areas.
But the ripple effects of the Kirwan Institute’s analysis have extended far beyond Seattle. The Puget Sound report has been presented to the White House as an example of how to advance equity in development planning. In addition, the Seattle-area opportunity mapping has been used nationwide as part of HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. HUD now requires local governments that receive community development grants to use opportunity mapping in their analyses of fair housing barriers.
Jason Reece, who directed Kirwan Institute’s research, told us, “The mapping report from Puget Sound has shaped equity practices that are informing national fair-housing policy. What began as supplemental funding to complete the mapping project in one region grew into an opportunity-based framework of value to Sustainable Communities work taking place across the nation. This is philanthropy at its best.” This opportunity mapping work will have local, regional, and national consequences. We’re honored to be a small part of a big story.
Kevin Walker is president and CEO of Northwest Area Foundation.
David Haskell, former international regional director for Habitat for Humanity, has a unique perspective on networking. “Imagine that you were tiling a floor,” Haskell says. “You could use uniform tiles that all fit together nicely but are rather expensive. Or, if you cannot afford those tiles, you can make a mosaic of discarded tile shards. It winds up far more beautiful and functional than the fine tiles.” Networks function just like the mosaic Haskell described - each piece of the network connects to and supports the other to produce better results than a single organization ever could on its own.
Using a networking approach that embraces collaboration is integral to furthering the field of philanthropy and connecting for the good of communities. I hope you’ll join me next month at the Council on Foundations’ 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations: Connecting for Good. I helped design this conference with a team of volunteer foundation executives and the Council staff, and it is with this exact idea in mind - the idea that the contributions of many within the network can promote the greater good - that we’ve launched this year’s fall conference for community foundations.
The conference’s experiential curriculum is rooted in San Diego, and integrates the notion of place as canvas so that attendees can venture deep into the community to gain a comprehensive, aerial-like view of the model of place-based philanthropy. The conference is a unique opportunity to see how diverse organizations working toward a shared vision connect and leverage their individual strengths to reach more efficient and effective solutions, with relevant place-based challenges such as veteran transitions and border relations serving as real time case studies.
It’s a journey that utilizes the San Diego landscape as a compass to connect you with people whose passion lies in implementing solutions for the communities that define our nation. These are the nation’s most innovative thought leaders, thinkers, and strategists; visionaries who are cognizant of the fact that the contributions of their peers are essential to the future success of their own ideas. Collectively, we have the ability to pool our resources and transform into the grounded, firm anchors that our communities can rely on for continued support.
Place-based giving is unique to each place, however, this conference is a chance for all of us to come to San Diego and tap into our shared passion, our commitment, and our abilities. From Learning Tours to a dynamic and patriotic networking event aboard the USS Midway in San Diego’s harbor, we have planned this conference to inspire you and bring us all closer together as community foundations. While each of our respective foundations serves a distinct locale, this conference reminds us that we are all connected and all working together to advance the common good.
John Kobara is Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at the California Community Foundation, and is serving as the chair of the 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations
In 1988, President Reagan proclaimed August 21st to be National Senior Citizens Day. He hoped that the country could unite in recognizing the important role that seniors play in communities across the country. Seniors are entrepreneurs. Between 1996 and 2010, adults over 55 had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity. They were also twice as likely to found a tech firm as were adults under 25. Seniors are volunteers. One in four Americans over the age of 55 volunteers his or her time. That is more than 18 million people contributing a total 3 billion hours of service every year.
Many seniors, however, are also faced with serious challenges to their health and well-being. Without the support of their community, many will be hospitalized or marginalized. Fortunately there is an active network of philanthropies working to ensure that this generation of older Americans is the healthiest and most active ever. With innovative and strategic thinking, grantmakers across the country are improving senior care, fighting economic insecurity, and building communities that embrace the elderly while empowering them to contribute.
Currently 8.3 million seniors with low-income or disability rely on Medicaid to supplement other government benefits. In a time of government belt-tightening at all levels, we must get the most impact possible from limited funding. One way that is happening is through the Cash & Counseling Program at the National Resource Center for Participant Directed Services. This program partners with state Medicaid programs to let patients with disabilities and other long-term care needs manage a flexible budget, directing it to the care and services they most need. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program has expanded from a three-state pilot to 15 states nationwide. Given control over their healthcare decisions, participants show better results, staying in their homes and engaged in their communities, with no increase in cost to Medicaid.
However, even those who avoid health problems may still face severe economic insecurity. More than 22 million Americans over 60 are at or near the Federal Poverty Line and rely on benefits to make ends meet. This problem disproportionately affects women and people of color, with 60% of Hispanic women and 65% of African American women aging into economic insecurity. The Atlantic Philanthropies, through grantees, has helped to restore $7.5 billion in unclaimed government benefits and $50 million in lost pensions to seniors facing economic hardship. The program addresses the fact that sometimes lack of access is caused by a lack of information about available resources.
This kind of outreach has been critical to the programs of the Connecticut Community Foundation. The group’s aging program is dedicated to keeping seniors “healthy, informed, and engaged using community organizations for outreach,” says president and CEO Paula van Ness. “At the town level, we’ve had success hosting community conversations on aging to talk about what the needs are and how they can be addressed.” This level of local organizing is critical to creating what Grantmakers in Aging refers to as “age friendly communities.”
GIA has mobilized more than $1.5 million through their Community AGEnda to help communities across the country plan for and support their aging populations. This program will create a toolkit for non-profits, foundations, and other community leaders to engage the elderly in public policy and urban planning. The program has helped establish volunteer and employment opportunities, resource centers, and new community support services in the targeted communities.
These are just some of the many ways in which philanthropy is investing in our elderly population. With the ability to lead dynamically and seek out innovative solutions, grantmakers across the country are getting in front of the age wave, so that seniors can continue to play their vital role in our shared prosperity.
John Feather, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer of Grantmakers In Aging
There are currently an estimated 1.5 million LGBTQ seniors in the U.S., and by 2030 that number is expected to more than double to 4 million. As the first generation of “out,” self-identified LGBTQ people reaches retirement age, it’s remarkable to think of what they’ve been through. Any LGBTQ person 65 or older was born at a time consensual same-sex activity was illegal in all 50 states. Prior to 1973, their same-sex attraction was classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. They have lived through the Stonewall Riots, the AIDS epidemic, and waves of anti-gay violence and discrimination. They have also seen a transformation in the treatment of LGBTQ individuals and significant advances towards legal equality. The recent Supreme Court Decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act means that for the first time, same-sex partners can apply for federal benefits in states that offer marriage equality.
Yet despite changing societal attitudes, many LGBTQ seniors are struggling in what should be their golden years. LGBTQ seniors face high rates of economic insecurity, few options for LGBTQ specific housing, severe health and wellness issues, and a dearth of support services tailored to meet their unique needs. LGBTQ seniors are twice as likely as straights to be single and living alone, often in poverty. Even those that are coupled are more likely to be living at or near the poverty line, with lesbian couples being twice as likely as straight couples to fall below it. Many LGBTQ seniors in assisted living homes get bullied or ostracized from their peers. Over 30% of LGBTQ seniors report depression, and nearly 40% of LGBTQ seniors have seriously considered suicide. More than one in ten LGBTQ people over the age of 50 have been denied healthcare or been provided inferior care.
These are issues that have received very little attention from the field of philanthropy to date. Funding for LGBTQ issues represented just 0.26% of foundation dollars awarded in 2011 (just over $120 million), and of that only $2.6 million was devoted to LGBTQ seniors.  The top ten foundations supporting LGBTQ seniors in 2011 included:
2) Gill Foundation ($325,000)
3) M.A.C. AIDS Fund ($230,000)
4) Horizons Foundation ($176,531)
5) Henry van Ameringen Foundation ($165,000)
6) Booth Ferris Foundation ($150,000)
6) The California Wellness Foundation ($150,000)
8) Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation ($110,000)
9) New York Community Trust ($100,000)
10) Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey ($82,000)
In 2011, three organizations received $100,000 or more including: Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing Corporation, Griot Circle, and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). Over 60% of the $2.6 million awarded to LGBTQ seniors went to SAGE. In 2012, SAGE opened a full-time LGBTQ senior center in New York City, which was the first of its kind in the country. Hopefully this center will be joined by more centers and LGBTQ specific senior housing options in the years to come. At the present, Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing runs Triangle Square Hollywood, a four-story retirement home with more than 100 apartments for low-income LGBTQ seniors. There are projects underway to build housing for low- to moderate-income LGBTQ seniors in Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Philadelphia.
While returning to a life in the closet shouldn’t be something LGBTQ seniors consider, for some it seems like their only option to get the care they need. There is a definite need for more data and a larger civil sector dedicated to their care. With the right strategies and new funding partners, philanthropy can dramatically improve the lives of LGBTQ seniors.
 Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, July 2012, Diverse Elders Coalition and Insight Center for Community Economic Development.
 Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults, March 2010, Movement Advancement Project and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).
 Health Equity and LGBT Elders of Color: Recommendations for Policy and Practice, April 2013, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).
 Funders for LGBTQ Issues database on LGBTQ grantmaking by US Foundations
When the comic strip “Doonesbury” is making fun of your state’s lackluster education record, you know things must change.
That’s the situation Oregon’s foundation leaders found themselves in 10 years ago. That part of the story isn’t that unusual; every state has had to cope with the failures of the K–12 system. What leaders of Oregon’s six largest foundations did about it is where this takes a turn.
These foundations decided to band together to devote a significant amount of their resources to attacking an education system that rates a C and is 42nd worst in the country according to Education Week. While we are proud that our state gets an A+ for both hazelnut production and microbreweries, we inherently understand that Oregon must achieve more in education to truly compete in the 21st century.
Foundations often say they want to be collaborative and strive toward common goals. Very few of them do and even fewer do it successfully—egos get in the way and usually one or more of the partners feels overshadowed.
I’m happy to report the collective effort known as Foundations for a Better Oregon is, knock on wood, showing how to pull together diverse interests in a powerful effort to attack education lethargy.
The foundations allocate a combined $2 million per year on the initiative known as Chalkboard Project; federal grants add another $5 million to the effort.
Here is how we have come together.
Common Plan and Independence
Chalkboard Project has a three-pronged strategy that all the entities agreed to based on an extensive public outreach effort including the largest and most extensive poll ever conducted in the state on education issues. The tenets are: 1) Research: provide evidence-based research as the foundation for reforms; 2) Incubate: partner with educators and stakeholders to pilot promising practices and demonstrate results; and 3) Advocate: serve as an independent, non-partisan voice for evidence-based policies.
These are the things that the foundation support as part of the initiative. We also recognize that foundations and their boards have interests in education beyond this platform. We always agreed that they should and could continue the ideas that made sense to them. What we’ve come to see is that many of the foundations have decided to follow our model in their education grant making; one even requires that all their new education grantees align with Chalkboard’s action plan. The result is our influence has grown.
It Takes More than a CEO
Early on we decided to engage more than just the CEO of each foundation; we also met with the trustees. In the beginning we asked trustees from one foundation to go to other foundations and their trustees to ask for support for the common effort. This high-level of involvement with trustees might seem unusual but we are convinced it worked.
Educators know that one of the best ways for a student to learn is for him or her to try to explain a concept to another student. Likewise, the act of thinking through and explaining Chalkboard to their peers heightened the understanding and commitment of every trustee.
No Empire Building
The last thing we wanted to create was a new bureaucracy to implement the program. We decided to rely on a core group of staff and engage agile consultants to do the project work as needed. In this way we are following the lead of the private sector which in recent years has expanded its use of consultants instead of always relying on in-house staff. For Chalkboard, this has been the right fit.
Invite competing viewpoints
One major point of controversy in Chalkboard’s history was at the point when the organization had to decide whether to jump into advocacy work or continue to hope that others would act on its recommendations. The foundations were cautious about getting involved in public policy issues. We brought in long-time government relations experts—one Republican and one Democrat. The consultants rarely agreed with each other, but it gave the board the full picture of what was possible and they always felt like they were getting both sides of the story. By presenting the full range of possibilities to board members, it gave them the knowledge base to take the chance and enter into the public policy space. Now they are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and enter the fray.
At the beginning stages, no one wants to consider that a coalition won’t hold. Yet that lack of acknowledgment of the elephant in the room is often the undoing of a group effort. In our first meetings we discussed how we would come together and what would happen if one of the foundations pulled out. We have contingency plans to ensure the education reform work will continue. Thankfully, no partner has ever walked away. I think this is all due to thinking about how to handle opposing viewpoints, and keeping an eye on the end game.
So what about results? Overall, Oregon’s graduation rate and its performance on national assessments have improved little since 2003; other states have made quicker progress, leaving Oregon in the bottom third.
However, in our partner districts, which serve about a third of Oregon’s students, we have seen student achievement improve significantly and teachers become more empowered as professionals.
It’s going to take more time and effort to fulfill our goal of making Oregon’s schools among the best in the nation but we are confident we are on the right path. Along the way we believe we have learned a number of valuable lessons about foundations that can also benefit the sector as a whole.
Sue Hildick is President of Chalkboard Project.
Every year, thousands of nonprofits experience the departure of an executive. Faced with this challenging and typically unfamiliar situation, boards can easily make missteps that jeopardize their most important governance decision.
One way a board of directors can minimize risk is to hire an external interim executive director (IED) to serve between CEOs. This strategy gives the board time to conduct its search strategically, with the peace of mind that the organization will be well-managed during the transition. The interim executive can be part of their team, helping assess the nonprofit’s strengths and challenges and act during the transition to build a better platform for the incoming CEO.
Interim EDs typically work 20-30 hours per week. Their work is more internally focused, on operations and transitional tasks, and less on the external role serving as the “face” of the organization. Among qualities an IED should possess are: the ability to communicate and work effectively with both the staff and the board; a propensity for strategic thinking; and executive level skills and experience. Ideally, they should not be candidates for the CEO position as this can cloud their objectivity.
Boards, especially in small or cash-strapped organizations, may imagine that hiring an interim executive is not financially feasible. But interims generally work within the parameters of the nonprofit’s budget for executive salary and benefits. If the organization can afford an executive, they can afford an interim executive.
Why not just appoint a senior staff person to serve as an interim ED? Few senior staff are equipped with the skills and experience to take on this job. Even if they are, taking on the executive role may get in the way of their other job responsibilities and complicate their relationships with staff during the transition and after. If they are candidates for the executive position, they are being placed in a situation where they are unfairly “tested” as an executive before they have the full authority and while they are carrying the responsibilities of multiple jobs.
What about a board member filling in? While a board member may have intimate knowledge of the organization, s/he may not be a nonprofit professional. Additionally, many boards find it difficult to navigate the challenging dynamics created by having one of their own at the helm.
Using an experienced interim ED is increasingly becoming a best practice in the nonprofit community, and the pool of professional IEDs is growing. Funders and stakeholders can encourage this approach by recommending the practice to grantees and offering to help fund the position if needed. Executive sea changes can be unsettling and challenging, but they are a normal part of an organization’s life cycle, and having an experienced IED to help guide the organization during the transition can be invaluable.
Further explore best practices in nonprofit leadership and leadership transitions during the 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations.
Rachael Gibson is the President/CEO of Mosaica, a Washington DC-based multicultural capacity building organization that provides organizational development and evaluation support to nonprofits and foundations nationally. Mosaica convenes an active IED network in the Washington, DC region. This blog post was written on behalf of the network.
I had a meeting recently with an economist at the World Bank. Part researcher and part policy-maker, he explained that the Bank had been pleased to see marked and measurable improvement in the lot of women and girls in almost two dozen countries they’d track and fund. Hearteningly, the improvements spanned a variety of metrics, including economic participation and civic and political engagement.
But in a number of key areas — partner violence, reproductive health, education, and having their voices heard — women continued to worryingly lag behind.
Being the World Bank, they brought immense resources to bear to better understand what the hidden barriers might be. They convened focus groups in 20 countries, from Papua New Guinea to Poland and Peru. Over 4,000 people in 93 communities were heard.
The result is a magisterial 160 page report: On Norms and Agency. Their conclusion is that the hidden barrier is gender norms. Or to use their language, “Women’s and men’s opportunities and actions are determined as much by social norms-including gender roles and beliefs about their abilities and capacities-as by the conditions of the communities and countries they live in…Women must constantly negotiate and resist traditional [gender] expectations about what they are to do and who they are to be.” [A brief abstract is here.]
The focus on normative beliefs, expectations and social scripts might seem a little startling from an institution that prides itself on data driven analyses that look at cold, hard facts on the ground. And gender norms are historically considered one of those “soft” metrics you avoid if you want hard data, like economic indicators. Yet gender has become the core of their new approach.
Put succinctly, if we want to improve the lot of women and girls, we must challenge culturally relevant norms of masculinity and femininity, because that’s what’s holding them back.
This is an argument that TrueChild has been quietly making for several years. It’s especially important because it has the capacity to bridge the disconnect in US gender work between the gender equity camp and the (much smaller) gender norms camp.
Most US funders say “adopt a gender lens” when what they really mean is more funding to improve gender equity for women and girls. This is an entirely important goal. But it is not a “gender lens.” It not only overlooks men and boys (and LGBTQ), it skips over gender norms entirely.
The World Bank’s report shows that if you unpack gender inequalities, it is cultural attitudes and beliefs about masculinity and femininity that sustain such disparities. This means if you want to improve gender equity, you have to go through gender norms: there’s just no way around them.
This is revelatory stuff. I asked my guide at the Bank who could be the audience for a 160 page report? Personally, I’d rather wait for the movie to come out. It’s not exactly the kind of thing most policy-makers or funders will sit and read at one sitting (although the brief introduction, “On the Power of Norms and the Norms of Power” is worth the price of admission).
He explained that it was an internal document, for his own people. The World Bank, one of our largest institutions for improving lives in developing countries, is working hard to educate their own people about gender norms because the data shows it will increase life outcomes and equity for women and girls.
Shouldn’t we be doing likewise?
Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild.
Council staff, consultants and I recently met with Senator Max Baucus of Montana who serves as chair of the Finance Committee. Three weeks ago, the Council’s CEO, Vikki Spruill, met with Representative Dave Camp, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee. These two men guide the tax writing committees that will decide what form, if any, federal tax reform will take. For Vikki and me, these meetings were valuable opportunities to press the case for charitable incentives with the two most important congressional leaders on tax reform.
While these were key meetings, they were also just two of hundreds of meetings that Council staff, members, and volunteers have held since the Ways and Means Committee kicked off the debate on the future of the charitable deduction in February.
In the past few weeks some members have asked us why we’re focusing so much on the charitable deduction and less on other public policy issues. I want to use this space to address that question, but the simple answer is, as my kids would say, “it’s getting real.”
Some very serious people are questioning the value of keeping the charitable deduction in the tax code, or others have outright called for limiting it. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (usually called the “Simpson-Bowles Commission”) proposes replacing the deduction with a credit. According to the Urban Institute that would reduce charitable giving by between 5.3% and 14.2%. President Obama has proposed capping the charitable deduction at 28% of adjusted gross income, a proposal that the American Enterprise Institute estimates would cause a drop in charitable giving of about nine billion dollars.
So why do we care?
During this tax reform process, the Council has consistently encouraged Congress to maintain, if not enhance, incentives for charitable giving in the tax code. We support provisions that at the very least would maintain the current level of charitable giving in this country. Moreover, we challenge Congress to consider provisions that might increase giving. And, those incentives might not be limited to just the charitable deduction or some substitute for that. There are other provisions in the code, including incentives for IRA rollovers and non-cash gifts, which are important incentives for giving. I would argue that even changes to simplify the private foundation excise tax could increase giving from those institutions as funds can be redirected from financial advisors to the community.
We know that the Council has a diverse membership. But all of our members (or almost all of them) support nonprofit organizations that provide health care to the poor, educate our children, bring arts to our communities, protect the environment and work in a host of other ways to improve the lives of people in our nation and across the world. For us to be successful those grantees have to be healthy, vibrant organizations and a significant loss of charitable giving would be a devastating blow to many of them. So protecting the charitable deduction benefits all of our members by protecting the strength of their grantee networks.
As the CEO of a community foundation, I know that community foundations have an added interest in protecting incentives for charitable giving. Unlike most of the Council’s members, we’re charged with attracting new contributions to grow our capacity. The Council’s leadership is acutely aware of the need to support the growth of community foundations. And because members of Congress are more familiar with community foundations, we’ve found a very receptive audience for our message.
Some have suggested that the prospect of major tax reform “isn’t real” or that “nobody would ever touch the charitable deduction.” Yes, the prognosis for a tax reform package being enacted during this Congress is unclear. But it’s naïve to imagine that the debate won’t spill over to future sessions and absurd to imagine that tax reform will never come. As to the supposed sanctity of the charitable deduction, the words one senator used, “if you’re not at the table during this debate, you’re on the menu” always haunt me.
This point is worth emphasizing. Even if tax reform does not happen in this session of Congress, actions taken now will alter the form and subject of the next debate in Washington. As we see now with immigration reform, ideas that were supported in 2006 have re-emerged as central to the policy battles of today. Our hope is to impact not just today’s tax reform discussion but also tomorrow’s.
While we focus on preserving the charitable incentive, we’ve also raised two other issues at every meeting: The need to simplify the excise tax on private foundations and the opportunity to simplify the code by allowing IRA rollovers into donor advised funds. We know these issues are important to our members, and we’ll keep raising them, but it’s important for our members to understand that—in the current environment—these items aren’t attracting a lot of attention.
What Congress is focused on is the core of the deduction itself, whether it is being abused, whether all causes should be treated equally and whether modifications to the deduction offer an opportunity to generate additional federal revenues. That’s why we’ve focused our work on those issues.
I can tell you having been in these meetings that Vikki and a top-rate public policy team led by Sue Santa is making sure that we’re “at the table.” All of us in the field need to keep communicating to members of congress the importance of preserving charitable incentive so that we don’t end up “on the menu.”
Kevin Murphy is Chairman of the Council on Foundations and President & CEO of the Berks County Community Foundation.
Discussion is healthy with regard to addressing the issue of homelessness in Denver, but we need to reframe the discussion.
On June 27, in an effort to balance the portrayal of interrelations between police officers and individuals experiencing homelessness, The Denver Post editorial board highlighted the Denver Police Department’s commitment to the members of our community who have been without shelter during the first year of Denver’s urban camping ban. I want to reinforce gratitude for this commitment, as well as for the commitment of all those who reach out to support people who experience being homeless.
The problem is the camping ban is not the context in which we, as a community, should discuss how to support our most vulnerable neighbors who are without shelter. The ban was implemented at a contentious point in time. It will not solve homelessness. The camping ban can and should, as in this instance, prompt dialogue focusing on longer-term solutions to ensure our neighbors have shelter and feel a part of our community.
“The Denver Camping Ban: A Report from the Street,” included four recommendations regarding homelessness. Two focused specifically on the camping ban and have received editorial attention. The other two — those upon which I encourage our community to focus — could ultimately address resource gaps in a way to make the camping ban irrelevant.
These two recommendations are: to identify a stable funding source to increase affordable housing and human services, and to identify stable funding to ensure shelter for people with different needs throughout the year along with prevention strategies. Denver is one of the few large cities without a committed source of funding to support those who are homeless, as they seek to find a place where they feel safe and stable enough in the community to call home.
I challenge Denver’s residents to discuss homelessness as an issue affecting each of us. We all know someone who has either experienced homelessness or who was on the verge of being homeless.
As an example, several artists who have experienced homelessness are currently sharing their complex stories through the “Not Exactly” exhibit at RedLine Gallery. Those who escaped being homeless most likely overcame it due to a strong support network. A similar support network should be available for the 2,923 people in Denver struggling with homelessness identified during the 2013 Metro Denver Homeless Initiative Point in Time Survey, including the 50 percent who are families with children, the 34 percent who are women, the 8 percent who are unaccompanied youth and the 11 percent who are veterans.
The support network should include the police, shelter providers, mental health professionals, elected officials, government and community-based organizations, businesses, neighbors, and those who know homelessness first hand.
Together, we can address homelessness as a complex humanitarian issue to be solved through a sustained long-term approach. This requires getting to know one another, including those affected by homelessness, and engaging in dialogue about what homelessness is, its root causes, and how we can address it through our community’s assets. Tremendous opportunity lies ahead if we come together to build a system of prevention, human service support, shelter, and affordable housing through a sustained commitment and funding.
Monica Buhlig is director of basic human needs for The Denver Foundation.
I recently began learning about social network analysis (SNA), an innovative tool that helps professionals understand the often hidden relationships between people, groups, and organizations. This can be important for anyone seeking to identify the key stakeholders and relationships that affect the success of grant-supported work. It can also help organizations that are looking to identify “influencers” and better understand their reach.
Why am I excited about SNA?
I think SNA can help funders innovate their stakeholder identification process by allowing them to use data to identify people, groups, and organizations for important funding conversations. It can also help evaluators identify process implementation-related information that can affect the success of programs under consideration for multisite implementation.
How can your organization use SNA?
Perhaps the best way is to learn from organizations that have used it for past projects. Take a look at this online article that reviews how SNA was applied to online communications networks.
Are there resources that provide information about SNA?
In conclusion, SNA can help funders better understand relationships that are crucial to their work.
Sophia Guevara is the former chair for the Consortium of Foundation Libraries.
I am always drawn to an essay that talks about how we are motivated to give, especially when the main character is a guide dog named Lucy. In a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece in the New York Times, Paul Sullivan shared a story about his, and his wife’s, support of groups involved with helping the blind. Sullivan’s personal narrative highlights a couple of tensions faced by grantmakers. Although his essay is directed to individual givers, the author managed to touch upon some of the big questions faced by all philanthropists.
First, the age-old question of whether it is better to give from the head or from the heart was raised. The second, and in my opinion, more interesting question was around wanting to have an isolated impact versus aiming for more systemic change. While there are no right or wrong answers, both questions beg an additional question: Should we care about the effects of our giving?
For me, the answers and the debates are different for different types of funders. Individual givers are free to set their own goals and strategies, while institutional givers are likely to be more mission-driven and more accountable to multiple stakeholders. Corporate giving professionals, in particular, have the responsibility of translating the motivations of their stakeholders to actionable and impact-oriented work on the ground. Acknowledging that there is a great deal of emotion in our work, our ultimate decisions should be based on how effectively we, and our community partners, are helping to solve a problem.
Among corporate funders, the increased dialogue around measurement is improving the quality of our work. I think that we can all agree that our ability to demonstrate the value of our work to stakeholders is directly linked to the quality of our program outcomes and results. At the Council on Foundations, we commissioned Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy to encourage companies to articulate their place in creating greater value for society. Whether your giving is motivated by the heart or the head, knowing what you want to achieve with your generosity is key. Just ask Lucy.
Michael Bzdak is an executive director of corporate contributions at Johnson & Johnson.
Nonprofit leaders are accustomed to justifying their need for operating support in appeals to potential donors. In a “proposal letter” written in June 1788, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart makes his case to benefactor Johann Michael VonPuchberg:
“If you will do me this kindness, I shall primo (being thus provided) be able to make necessary payments when they are due and therefore more easily, whereas I now continually delay and must then often pay out at once all I have received, and that at the most inconvenient moment. Secondo, I shall be able to work with an easier mind and a lighter heart, and thus earn more.”
While Mozart may not be a model of good nonprofit management, his second point still resonates: Funders do tend to favor financially secure organizations whose leaders are able to lead with “easy minds” and “light hearts.”
However, requests for unrestricted support have long made foundations uneasy. In the first place, private foundation resources are no match for the nonprofit sector’s operating needs, which are vast and growing. Secondly, by giving up control over exactly how a grant is spent, the connection between the investment and its results can be obscured. How should today’s funders think about the potential impact of grants for operations?
Unrestricted funding for operations
At GMA Foundations’ quarterly NPO Conversation, we explored this topic with the leaders of nonprofit organizations that draw on foundation support for programs, but have learned to build a solid base of unrestricted funding from non-foundation sources. Our guests included a theater company, a national service organization, a youth mentoring agency, a youth arts organization, and an independent school serving disadvantaged inner-city children.
They shared their perspectives on three questions. (1) Has it become easier to secure general operating grants? (2) How do you fund general operations? (3) What advice would you give to donors? Here is a summary of what we heard.
Is it easier?
No! The dearth of funders that provide unrestricted support continues to challenge nonprofit leaders to be more creative in generating income for operations.
Other sources of support?
These savvy leaders rely on special events, subscription sales, large-scale government contracts, earned revenues (including a portion earned by youth participants), and individual contributions.
One organization runs six events each year to raise over $1.5 million, while engaging with different constituents at different price points and to different degrees. For example, the event organizing committees have become a training ground for future board members. And the organization’s event management expertise keeps its production costs well below the national average, spending only 25 cents to raise each dollar.
Advice for foundations?
As the conversation continued, GMA staff shared examples of grantmakers who regard operating grants as part of their effort to (a) fund good organizational leadership over the long-term and (b) support the strategic goals of strong organizations with proven records of success.
While no two funders are alike, our clients have demonstrated real willingness to provide unrestricted funding, with trustees blending operating and program support for outcomes-oriented grants programs. In fact, unrestricted grant dollars constituted 22 percent of all the grants made by GMA clients in 2012.
It may be time to retire the project vs. operating debate. Most funders recognize that nonprofits need fuel to operate, organizational strength to innovate, and flexibility to manage to their core mission. Some have even gone so far as to change the vocabulary, replacing the term operating with core mission support.
Phil Hall is director of grantmaking services at GMA Foundations. Contact him at email@example.com or 617-391-3097.
As I write this, my partner and I about to leave for Borough Hall to get our marriage license. The Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 went largely as expected, yet I still found myself shocked and overwhelmed with joy that, for the first time in my life, I am able to marry the man I love with the full recognition of the law. No more “skim milk” marriages — now we have the real thing.
This decision means that my partner can finally become a citizen and that we can at last be free of the stresses and worries that came with his “foreign” status despite living nearly a decade here in the U.S. It means we’ll get a slightly bigger tax refund in April of 2014. It means we have 1,000 or so other rights that come with marriage. And it means we have something intangible but just as important: the knowledge that our lives and our love are honored and respected by our country.
But with the sweetness of that knowledge, there has also come the bitter aftertaste that our country only provides that respect for same-sex couples in 13 states and Washington, DC.
For LGBTQ people, there are two Americas now. There is the America that I and millions of other gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans have been welcome into today, an America that fulfills its promise of freedom and liberty for all. And then there is another America, an America that doesn’t yet live up to its great aspirations. Sadly, that’s still the America of 37 states and Puerto Rico where people still do not have the freedom to marry the person they love. That’s the America of 29 states where people can still be fired simply because of their sexual orientation. That’s the America of 34 states where transgender people are not protected from discrimination.
The same Supreme Court that expanded freedom today also curtailed freedom yesterday by overturning a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Transgender people, people of color, immigrants, and low-income people have all been told that America’s most precious promise — the right to vote and be represented in our democracy — is fettered by caveats and stipulations.
In that context, so many of us today are filled with complex emotions that cannot be captured in a single word: joy and inspiration at how far we have come, determination and resolve for all we have yet to do.
The philanthropic community has an essential role in all that we have won and in all the work that lies ahead. I am so proud to work with an amazing network of funders in this continuing struggle for social change. I think of funders like the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, which awarded the first grant for the freedom to marry and continues to lead the charge for marriage equality and immigrant rights. I think of the Gill Foundation and its brilliantly strategic work - both past and present - to win full legal equality for LGBTQ people in all 50 states. I think of the Arcus Foundation’s groundbreaking leadership for full justice for LGBTQ communities of color. I think of the Ford Foundation’s unprecedented $50 million commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights. I think of the way that several of these funders have come together to form the Civil Marriage Collaborative, coordinating their efforts on marriage equality to make the impact of their dollars go even further. I think of funders like the Paul Rapoport Foundation, who have led the fight against AIDS and worked to make sure that all LGBTQ people can live healthy lives. And I think of the crucial work of the Astraea Foundation and a dozen other LGBTQ public foundations supporting LGBTQ leaders and organizations working at the grassroots level for LGBTQ communities.
The funders in our network have pursued a range of different grantmaking strategies, but all have been essential in making sure that LGBTQ leaders, organizations, and advocates around the country have the resources they need to advance LGBTQ justice. As our work to advance legal equality spreads beyond the liberal bastions of the Northeast and West Coast, and as we expand our efforts to improve health and educational and economic opportunities for the most vulnerable of LGBTQ communities, our movement will need more resources and new funding partners. Funders for LGBTQ Issues will be here as leader and resource in that work, building relationships with new allies in the philanthropic world and helping to explore bold new strategies that address the coming challenges.
As President Obama has said, “This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.” On this historic day, like so many LGBTQ Americans and our many allies, I am so moved and inspired at this great leap forward in the journey of perfecting this great country. And we are determined to continue our work until the day when there are not two Americas but only one America, an America that fulfills its great promise of freedom and liberty for all.
Ben Francisco Maulbeck is the president of Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
For better or worse, the field of philanthropy is inundated with reports. My swelling “to-read” pile is the root cause of seemingly intractable clutter in my office.
Amid this cacophony, Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking warrants our attention. On its part, the International Human Rights Funders Group deserves kudos for culling rich insights from wide-ranging interviews with members from nine countries.
It’s significant, as well, that the Foundation Center co-authored the report, its first-ever in-depth look at the topic of global human rights. As the go-to clearinghouse for information about philanthropy, the Foundation Center tracks trends and makes new knowledge visible, literally and figuratively putting grants data on the map. You might even say that funders look to the Foundation Center to discern what’s “canon” in institutional philanthropic funding flows.
Human rights funders, rejoice — we’re on the map.
Some of you will recall the Foundation Center’s groundbreaking survey Social Justice Grantmaking: A Report on Foundation Trends, released eight years ago (not to mention the incisive second edition in 2009). Whether by coincidence or correlation, its publication heralded a period of substantial growth for the field of social justice philanthropy, climbing to nearly 15 percent of all institutional giving. More important, it served as a touchstone for vigorous dialogue and nimble collaboration among foundations — even luring new players to the table.
As the ink dries on Advancing Human Rights, how can we spur a similar ripple effect for the field of human rights philanthropy? Here are my initial thought — and let’s borrow from the metaphorical trove of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement:
1. Help peers out of the closet. Advancing Human Rights identifies a swath of funders making grants that fall within the report’s definition of human rights but do not categorize their work as human rights philanthropy (many explicitly embrace “access to” approaches that go far beyond service delivery in such realms as health and education). Curiously, this includes six of the top fifteen funders — all based in the United States — that are featured in the survey.
It is time for more seasoned funders to share lessons from their institutions on “making the case” for a rights-based approach. What arguments or illustrations can convince trustees, donors, executives, and fellow staff members? What tools can we share to make human rights funding accessible — and not the hallowed (and isolated) terrain of experts?
2. Let’s be “out, loud, and proud” on impact. Advancing Human Rights underscores the need for bold grantmaking that bolsters local advocacy and organizing — and, moreover, for broadened general operating and multiyear support. This echoes the call to action of the U.S.-based National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, a sector “watchdog” that aims to represent the best thinking of the nonprofit sector and social justice leaders.
Stark fault lines separate those funders who do and do not embrace these perspectives. Vigorous action to demonstrate the value proposition of investing in advocacy — and illuminate its “life cycle” of impact over time — is sorely needed. Within our grant portfolios and databases resides a wealth of data and narratives that will help cement this case. What are the big wins, the intermediate wins — and, for that matter, the setbacks and upshots? How do strategies like policy advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement collude to foster “perfect storms” of social change?
Many of us know instinctively that investing in the grassroots is a powerful and durable strategy. If we’d like to see more flows of general and multiyear support for advocacy, it is incumbent upon us to provide convincing evidence. In a provocative report, Leveraging Limited Dollars, NCRP calculated a $115 return in community benefit for every $1 invested in policy and civic engagement in the United States. Let’s join this conversation with examples from the global front.
3. Convey “positive” human rights stories. As Advancing Human Rights notes, clear public messaging is critical to build a moral and political consensus for human rights on the grassroots, national, regional and global levels. But this field faces a vexing challenge: people tend to notice human rights only in their absence. In other words, communicating about human rights can seem a rather morbid affair — as appealing as chasing ambulances.
Shedding light on egregious abuses will always remain a crux part of the human rights agenda. On the other hand, narratives of human possibility and courage — whether of affected communities or defender — can powerfully influence hearts and minds. What’s the positive value to society of human rights movements, mechanisms, and wins? How can we use new tools of technology and media to “color in the faces” of those bearing the brunt of stigma and discrimination? How can we make winning cases for values like participation, non-discrimination and access to justice?
No doubt, the global human rights movement is a powerful shaper of the energy and events of our time. Advancing Human Rights sets the stage for funders to deepen our commitment to bolster pioneering advocacy — and cues the spotlight for the sector of human rights philanthropy to take center stage.
Daniel Jae-Won Lee is executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation.
In philanthropy we know that storytelling is a critical way to illustrate impact. A new video, “Post 9/11: The Impact of a Funder Collaborative,” tells the tale of what we learned through the Civic Engagement Fund (CEF). The CEF is a collaborative fund that supports little-understood communities that were propelled to the spotlight after 9/11, and remain invisible yet hyper-visible in mainstream America even today.
In the San Francisco Bay area, a network of grantmakers recognized that they have Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities in their regions but did not know how they were impacted post 9/11 or what organizations existed to serve these communities. The funders involved recognized that the narrative around AMEMSA communities, even 12 years after 9/11, was too often shaped by misperceptions, bias, or ignorance.
A recent Bay Area Muslim Survey also supported by a collaboration among Bay area grantmakers and AAPIP finds that Muslims from all walks of life continue to face ongoing Islamophobia that results in fear and mixed effects on their civic engagement (measured by donating, community participation, and voting).
Ultimately, the true value of the CEF isn’t in the dollars distributed, but in the capacity built and relationships developed. We hope this video spurs conversation about how foundations are addressing these and other underserved communities that are a vital part of our regions and nation. We also hope it inspires grantmakers to strategically include and invest in AMEMSA visibility, voice, leadership, and capacities. Our call to action is to develop meaningful partnerships with AMEMSA community leaders and organizations.
Here are some lessons we learned that apply to philanthropy, policymakers, and advocates:
Laila Mehta is director of the Civic Engagement Fund.
Last week, the Lumina Foundation released a new report, “A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education,” the fourth of its kind to track progress against its ambitious mission for 60 percent of Americans to hold high-quality degrees, certificates, or other postsecondary credentials by 2025.
Why college attainment? The case is pretty simple. As stated in the report’s opening letter by Lumina Foundation President Jamie Merisotis, “At its core, the strength of this nation—or any nation—is its people, the sum total of talents, skills, and abilities inherent in its citizenry. Only with sufficient talent, and right kinds of talent, can a nation truly succeed.”
To compete in the 21st century knowledge economy, to have a pipeline of ideas that drives innovation, and a future workforce (and taxable population) able to lead requires a consistent focus on developing America’s human capital. And while high school graduation and college enrollment are important, as Merisotis often says, it is only the starting place, not the finish line, of the race for workforce preparation.
At a national level, the Stronger Nation report highlights that the proportion of the U.S. adult population holding a two or four-college degree is steady and increasing slowly at 38.7 percent. However, much more needs to be done. Consider:
In an era where college or a master’s degree is increasingly becoming the price for entry into the workforce, the report makes one thing clear: “This is an intolerable situation.”
Lumina’s 60 percent degree-attainment goal offers a powerful national framework that aligns groups around common metrics and benchmarks as a pathway to systemic change. The bottom line is that the United States needs to educate nearly 800,000 more college graduates each year from now until 2025 to meet the demands of our workforce. The Stronger Nation report serves the field well as a practical tool to gauge how states stack up against this goal—and offers clear targets to close the gap. State and county-level rates of degree attainment exist in a dynamic data-driven website that also breaks down data by population.
Most striking is how the Lumina Foundation is tackling this national issue, recognizing that no foundation or group can create social movements alone. Embedded in a new strategic framework, the foundation focuses on mobilizing state and local leaders, businesses and employers, and policymakers alike—borrowing from collective impact models and looking at other social issues (like smoking cessation catalyzed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) to galvanize public will.
No doubt this is a commendable, real-time example of philanthropy’s unique role to take a stand on an issue, outline audacious goals for the country, and dig its heels for the long-term into a pressing national problem. As the Lumina Foundation seeks to strengthen the country’s talent pipeline through cross-sector efforts, they are joined by others in philanthropy monitoring workforce needs to drive economic development.
Please comment here on ways your foundation or peers are addressing this challenge.
Elizabeth Sullivan is managing director of corporate, independent, and family philanthropy at the Council on Foundations.
In class, I learned about motivating employees and the value of a learning organization, and started thinking about tools I could use to encourage a learning culture. Here are a few ideas I came up with that you might be interested in utilizing in your own organization.
1. Postcards. I turned a postcard into a tool to help employees discuss the lessons they’ve learned. On the back of the card, employees can provide a brief summary of a valuable lesson they learned and share it with other colleagues. They can submit the entries in person, send a note via e-mail, or send them via interoffice mail. You can also choose to share these lessons by highlighting a colleague’s entry on the Intranet. Another way to use this tool is to distribute the cards at convenings to collect the lessons learned from attendees before the end of the session.
2. Sticky pads. I decided to create a simple sticky pad with the title “What I’ve Learned.” These sticky pads are ideal for program meetings where a lot of information is presented. Taking less than a minute to jot down the most important lessons of the meeting, employees can provide valuable feedback about what they learned. As with the postcard idea, you can make use of these at convenings as well. Set up a poster board on an easel in the room and ask attendees to post their sticky notes.
3. Reward cards. Rewards can be helpful in promoting a learning culture. In order to provide recognition to employees engaging in learning, I developed reward cards that allow anyone in the organization to recognize a colleague for their dedication. In addition, these cards can be submitted for a monthly prize drawing. Providing an opportunity for colleagues to recognize each other and possibly win a prize can provide motivation to actively embrace learning.
What are some creative ways your organization has encouraged its professionals to embrace learning?
Sophia Guevara is the former chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries.
Inspirational and aspirational is how I would describe Building a More Inclusive Workforce: A National Summit to Boost Education and Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities, held last Friday in Wilmington, Del.
Collaborating with the U.S. Business Leadership Network and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, 2013 chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council cohosted this unprecedented gathering to solicit promising employment practices and lessons on public-private partnerships from the corporate and foundation attendees. This information will be part of Gov. Markell’s policy “blueprint” that he will provide to his NGA colleagues to help increase equity in employment of individuals with disabilities. The governor’s signature initiative this past year has been devoted to raising awareness about the employment challenges people with disabilities are facing coming out of the recession, as well as what states can do as employers, service delivery stewards, and economic development leaders to increase employment opportunities for these citizens.
While labor force participation is gradually increasing for those whose jobs disappeared during the Great Recession, this is not the case for people with disabilities. The steep decline in employment of people with disabilities—one million lost their jobs during the recession—is showing little sign of improvement.
It was truly impressive to witness the serious commitments and understanding of the issues by special guests such as PBS News Hour host Judy Woodruff; Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate HELP Committee; and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Republican Conference. It was evident in the networking time and small table discussions that there was some personal takeaway for almost everyone who attended, whether it related to wounded warriors and veterans, youth transitioning from school, ways to support businesses, or leveraging philanthropic resources with public resources.
A number of “audacious” ideas that could accelerate leveraging of resources across the philanthropic, public, and corporate sectors were shared with Sen. Harkin and Gov. Markell. Terry Mazany, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, and Elaine Katz, vice president of grant programs and special initiatives at the Kessler Foundation, were eloquent as they spoke about the important role that foundations can, and should, play with businesses and government in ensuring that public-private partnerships achieve real impact.
Forty-six foundations participated in the event, which was sponsored by The Chicago Community Trust, the Spencer Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Kessler Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Manpower, HP, and Walmart.
The big takeaway for me? If businesses and state governments are learning that people with disabilities are an untapped resource, the philanthropic sector has some interesting lessons to learn and partners with whom to engage as they explore the actions needed to address the nation’s growing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in their communities and their organizations.
Stephanie Powers is managing director, public policy at the Council on Foundations
The EDGE Funders Alliance Just Giving conference in Washington DC, 21-23 May, brought together some 250 donors, activists and allies on the theme of ‘What is to be done? And how do we do it?’ Participants enjoyed a casual yet focused environment to gain a deeper understanding of the current landscape of grassroots and transnational initiatives addressing structural injustice, and to explore grantmaking strategies for making an impact.
The conference organizers could not be accused of thinking too small. Mark Randozzo, director of the EDGE Funders Alliance, kicked off the conference by encouraging participants that despite all the injustices we see in the world, being able to imagine a new world is transformational to the change we want to see. He compared today’s world to the time of debating the slave trade in the 19th century. Are we okay just being incrementalists, or do we want to be abolitionists and seek deep systems change?
Attending the conference made it easy to be depressed about considering how and whether philanthropy could make any difference to such seemingly intractable, wicked social problems. Land and water grabs, climate change, fighting corruption, economic rights of sex workers were discussed. The worker-employer relationship is also being affected, as was clear from the debates on the future of work and increasing corporate power. Workers are getting poorer with less share of global wealth as a result of shifts in the global economy. There is more privatizing and saving of labour costs than ever. Can we build a ‘new economy’ where employers invest more in the welfare of their employees, and help keep government accountable?
The adage ‘the only constant is change’ rang true here. Gopal Dayaneni, part of the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, spoke at the opening plenary about how donors can deal with the new normal of instability and respond to change without changing our core values and being. ‘Systems resilience’ is about developing root cause remedies and being organized around resilience. ‘What is politically realistic, combined with real solutions that we know will work, is often a short window of opportunity that must be taken advantage of,’ said Dayaneni. He called upon donors to engage and challenge assumptions about what is needed – and to think about not just what is needed but what is possible. We must balance investing in short-term measurable results with long-term transformational vision.
Responsibility was another theme throughout the conference. The workshop on land and water grabs and how to fight these featured Miriam Miranda, part of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras. Corporations have taken over beachfront properties that belong to native Hondurans, making it a fight between tourists and natives. Miriam spoke with authority in challenging the global North to take responsibility for everybody’s future generations, and asking ‘why the global South should have to bear the costs of the global North’s energy and food usage?’
Leaving the conference discouraged about what could be done was not an option. Funders were reminded of the privilege of attending a conference – having opportunities to connect and to learn was a luxury – and that we had a responsibility to take what we learned back out into the world to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Katie Redford of Earthrights International summed it up: ‘Please use your freedom to help others gain their freedom.’ Fuelled by optimism and encouragement from one another to continue making the most of philanthropic dollars, funders were encouraged to keep trying and keep raising voices in places where hope goes right up against the forces of injustice. Give where it is bleak, intransigent and seemingly impenetrable, and where there is limited capacity on the ground and funds are limited. Build capacity of the local leadership, because you never know when those leaders will be in the right place at the right time to use their skills to lead their country to a better place.
The conference provided many answers to the questions of what is to be done, and how to do it. The challenge ahead is selecting the answers fit for you, and doing something about it. What have you chosen to do to make a difference as a funder, and how are you doing it?
Andrew Ho is manager for global philanthropy at the Council on Foundations. Follow him on Twitter at @andyho. This post was originally featured on the Latest from Alliance .
As our nation sits and watches the devastation in Oklahoma following a series of tornadoes this week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with Jennifer Lammers, the new Program Director for the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, about an article she wrote following the 9/11 attacks. She referenced the piece during a call with a group of funders and nonprofits to discuss the establishment of Boston’s One Fund.
The piece, Disaster Relief: Applying the Lessons Learned , outlines six points that I think are worth repeating as we collectively think about “What to Do” following a month of back-to-back disasters including the Marathon Bombings, the earthquake and flooding in China, the explosions in Texas and now the devastation in Oklahoma.
Below I’ve highlighted some essential quotations from Ms. Lammers article, and you can read the full piece here.
1. Sector Coordination is Key – “While coordination of service providers takes time, effort, and funding, its importance cannot be overstated. No organization can do everything needed in the wake of a disaster. Those that have tried have failed. Coordination of efforts allows organizations to provide service in their areas of greatest competency, leaving other tasks to those groups better prepared to handle them.”
2. Donors are Not Disaster Relief Experts – “It is up to the charities receiving funds to proactively manage donor expectations and lend rational dimension to the nation’s exuberance. As the experts in the field, we have an obligation to tell the public what is needed and why. We need to spell out how we are working to bring comfort and stability to the lives of those touched by the disaster. And sometimes we need to tell the general public why what they think is the answer really isn’t.”
3. There Are Needs that Cannot Be Seen on TV – “It is incumbent on institutional donors to make the less glamorous and more strategic gifts necessary for the rebuilding and community healing to begin. Money that allows a responding organization to hire additional administrative staff or purchase needed equipment, like computers or vehicles, can have a greater impact on the number of victims served and the speed of that service, than gifts restricted to “direct service provision only”.
Donor fatigue is real and can set in pretty fast. It can be compounded when the amounts raised are so large, and people unaffected by the disaster begin to think “how could they possibly need more? As such, it is essential that a portion of the funds raised in the immediate aftermath be reserved to meet the longer term needs of the victims.”
4. Victims are Not as Easy to Find as You Would Think – “It is important that those hoping to help the communities impacted by the hurricane not promise donors or the general public that they will provide payments or specific services to all victims or only to individuals or families. Some services and support, like the rebuilding of shelters, soup pantries, and job training programs, will have to substitute for direct gifts to impacted individuals – but in the long run these expenditures may actually speed the pace of recovery.”
5. Listen to the Victims – “Listening to the victims and community advocates can alert you to unique or specific needs that are going unmet.” You can expect cultural and religious differences; special language need; and, victims without bank accounts or access to reliable check cashing services.
6. Don’t Wait Until the Disaster is at Your Door – “Disaster preparedness is the job of every nonprofit, whether a first responder or not.” The six points above serve as takeaways in their own right, but I’ll add a few more on top. First, we must take time to learn from one another. We have met 9/11 heroes, Hurricane Katrina Leaders, Earthquake survivors, and disaster experts that have experienced disasters – learning from them, interviewing them, and adopting their recommendations is key.
Ms. Lammers has set forth six critical success elements for disaster responders and disaster philanthropists alike, it is now incumbent upon us, the reader, to adopt.
Additionally, Ms. Lammers says it will happen to all of us. A disaster will hit each of our communities. From the tornadoes in Oklahoma to the floods that affected my hometown of Nashville this spring or the flooding we are seeing in the Midwest, it will affect us. So, as Ms. Lammers says, don’t wait until the disaster is at your door. Make a plan – a family plan, an organizational plan, and a neighborhood plan.
Finally, Ms. Lammers says that recovery is a long process. To be effective disaster philanthropists we are obligated to sustain our attention – to be patient – and to commit to supporting affected communities for months to come. Not just days or weeks, but months and even years. Thank you Ms. Lammers for forwarding your piece to us. It is terrific and useful for today and the years to come.
Regine A. Webster is vice president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. This blog originally appeared on the CDP blog site.
Black adolescent girls and young women face special barriers related to both race and gender, which have immense effects on their health, achievement, and life outcomes. This is especially the case for low-income black girls, who have added challenges associated with poverty.
The effects of race and class are well-explored, but what about gender? Not the biological fact of being male or female or specific traits associated with one sex or the other, but the beliefs and expectations we all carry about what it means to be a woman or man, and the inequities that come with them?
How should philanthropic institutions focused on women and girls of color think about the effects of gender norms?
Today there is a small but growing body of empirical research devoted to black girls and gender norms, along with a wealth of racially diverse, multi-ethnic samples that include black girls in significant numbers.
A new report—created by a team of five leading researchers, led by Dr. Scyatta Wallace, and supported by the Heinz Endowments—focuses on three problem areas where that research base is both broad and well-accepted.
While the report necessarily focuses on problems with health and wellness, it’s important to note that young black women and girls often display exemplary resilience, strength, and intelligence in dealing with the combined challenges posed by race, class and gender.
Basic Health and Wellness
Black girls have unique race and gendered experiences of discrimination, which results in multiple stresses that begin in childhood and continue through adulthood. In addition to navigating social hostilities based on race, they must deal with pressures to conform to both traditional feminine ideals in the larger culture, and those specific to black communities where females may be expected to sacrifice themselves and put children and family first.
Together, such stresses can cause a “weathering effect” or “Sojourner Syndrome,” in which black girls’ bodies become increasingly vulnerable and eventually develop disproportionately high rates of disease and chronic disorders.
Repeated exposure to trauma also influences how much black girls internalize cultural expectations of being emotionally tough (“strong black woman”). This in turn increases binge eating to help regulate negative emotions and suppress pain, both of which are tied to higher rates of obesity and type II diabetes.
Reproductive and Sexual Health
Studies show that young women who internalize feminine ideals of dependence, passivity, and vulnerability are less likely to acquire sexual knowledge, carry condoms, or negotiate their use.
In addition, the lack of available young men in many black communities are linked to higher rates of sexual risk taking, HIV infection, and partner abuse. In some studies, about one in three black girls reported being sexually victimized, and about 50 percent of boys reported having “run trains” on girls.
Black girls are often perceived as hypersexual and promiscuous, a view exacerbated by popular media portrayals that present them as devoid of personality or agency. Studies link internalizing such images to depression, low self-esteem, and decreased sexual self-efficacy among young women generally, and to early and risky sexual behavior and unplanned pregnancy among black girls specifically.
Intimate Relationships and Partner Violence
Males who internalize rigid masculine norms are more likely to believe that violence is acceptable, that coercion is part of male privilege when an intimate partner is sexually unreceptive, and that physical dominance of a disobedient female is central to manhood.
In addition to the general pressure for young women to be passive, dependent, and nurturing, black girls are also expected to be deferential to male partners so they don’t add to their emasculation by the dominant white culture.
Black girls are also prone to believe that men mistreat women, that anger and rage are natural facets of masculinity, and that physical abuse is a way men express love—all beliefs linked to higher rates of partner victimization and to racial stereotypes of black men as naturally aggressive and physical.
Even black girls who have survived victimization and want to complain of mistreatment may hesitate to do so, because of communal beliefs that women must show solidarity with black men.
Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild.
As I sat in the lobby before a recent meeting at a nonprofit, I saw a woman carrying a stack of folders in one arm and tugging at her luggage with her free hand. She tripped, but caught herself before she spilled the stack. As she made her way out the door, I wondered if she had ever considered using her smartphone to reduce the amount of paper she carries on trips.
Before I brought my Android smartphone, I used to travel the same way. But now, I tend to leave the paper at home and load documents onto my smartphone. In fact, I routinely use my smartphone and tablet as mobile office tools. This has put an end to the crumpled paper and lost documents that can cause a headache for any busy professional. Are you looking to declutter your travel experience? If so, here are a few app suggestions to do just that.
1. AirDroid (Android). A free app available through Google Play, it has a number of features. What I have found to be the most helpful is the ability to transfer files from my computer via my wireless network and store them on my smartphone. After returning from my trip, I use the app to delete documents and other information I no longer need on my phone.
2. HP ePrint (Android, iPhone and Blackberry). This app allows you to print at home on a Wi-Fi connected HP printer and at thousands of public locations. When I travel, I usually print my documents to FedEx Office centers as they are usually easy to find. This app allows me to forgo the more expensive computer rental at these centers and print my documents for a few cents a page.
3. Cloud Print (Android). You can choose to “print” to your Google Drive account or another enabled printer. With the free version, you can print from a variety of sources, including stored documents, Web pages, drawings, pictures, texts, contact lists, your phone’s clipboard, and Google Calendar. However, if you need to print an e-mail from your Gmail account, you will need to sign in to your mobile Chrome browser or use the K9 mail app.
For those of you who are iPhone users, you may want to check out PrintCentral Pro (fee).
4. Chrome (Android/iPhone and desktop browser). I use Chrome on my tablet, smartphone, and desktop. I like the ability to sign into Chrome and access the bookmarks on any of my devices. In addition, I have my smartphone set up as a printing destination so I can “print” to my cell phone and carry a digital copy of content wherever I go.
But What if I Lose My Phone?
If you are storing important documents on your phone, it is important to make use of security apps like Lookout to protect, locate, and—in worst-case scenarios—wipe your device. In addition, use built-in security features to lock the phone after a short period of inactivity so that others can’t access the phone’s content. With my own mobile devices, I’ve gone one step further and disabled USB debugging.
In conclusion, with the right apps, you can transform your smartphone into a productivity tool that can help improve your travel experiences.
Sophia Guevara is the former chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries affinity group.
mmigrants are vital to our economy and our communities. Nearly 10 million immigrants, the largest of any state, call California home. More than 2 million Californians are undocumented. Immigrant workers comprise more than one-third of California’s labor force, and about one in 10 workers in the state is an undocumented immigrant.
Beyond the numbers, immigrants are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends. They are us. And for far too long, they have been at the mercy of our nation’s broken and often cruel immigration laws and policies, which are tearing families apart, contributing to the exploitation of workers, and denying talented young immigrants their dreams.
A Historic Moment for Change
Fortunately, there now appears to be a promising and historic moment of opportunity to overhaul the immigration process for the better. The potential for transformational reform has gained momentum for a number of reasons, including: the Latino and Asian American vote during the 2012 Presidential election has put pressure on both parties to act on this issue; President Obama has made immigration reform a top priority; national polling, across political affiliations, shows broad bi-partisan support for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship; Dreamers have changed the public conversation; and there is a stronger advocacy infrastructure than ever before, with deep engagement by labor, important business voices, faith leaders, and an organized field of advocacy groups.
This moment represents the best prospect for immigration reform in more than 25 years. Despite this good news, we know that the fight ahead will not be an easy one. Our nation will wrestle with many important policy issues in the coming months, and much of the public still needs to be educated about the issues involved in creating a new immigration process.
Special Action by Philanthropy
Those of us in philanthropy engaged across a broad range of issues–from social justice, to health, community and family strengthening, children’s well-being, and workers’ rights–can step up to support leaders and organizations fighting for common sense and fair immigration policies that uphold our basic values, protect the rights we hold dear, and improve conditions for immigrant youth and families across our state and country.
That’s why the Rosenberg Foundation’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved extra spending from the Foundation’s assets to increase our giving in 2013 and make a set of special opportunity grants as part of our Q1 grants in response to this critical moment. In nearly doubling the Foundation’s giving for immigrant rights, we have three important priorities: fund work with a focus on California, especially in rural and less-organized regions of the state; help elevate the voices of Dreamers, farmworkers, and low-wage workers; and support capacity building and leadership development that will leave our grant partners and the field stronger, regardless of the outcome of any particular piece of legislation.
You can read more about the special opportunity grants awarded in this press release.
Even Small Foundations Can Take Big Steps
With this move, we have increased our payout to 6.1 percent in 2013, and I thank our Board of Directors for their bold leadership in recognizing that doing so “makes excellent business sense for Rosenberg and for any Foundation that aims to strengthen our communities,” as our Board Chair, Daniel Grossman, said.
We also recognize the tremendous leadership and strategic grant making being done by colleagues at the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the James Irvine Foundation, The California Endowment, California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Ford Foundation, Four Freedoms Fund, Open Society Foundations, Carnegie, Unbound Philanthropy, and others. Our hope is that this major step by a small foundation can go a long way toward encouraging more of us in philanthropy to stretch our funding even further this year to respond to this unique window of opportunity.
We stand in solidarity with the amazing leaders across California and the country that are committed to making real the vision of a nation of immigrants and a nation of law. Advocates across California and the U.S. are working hard on the frontlines to win reform that is truly comprehensive, one that includes a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants; allows for an expedited process for Dreamers and farmworkers; enables LGBT couples to sponsor their international spouses and partners so they can join their families here; protects immigrant workers from abuse and exploitation; caps fines and fees at reasonable levels; and addresses abuses in border enforcement and the deportation system.
Moving forward, we will continue to work closely with our grant partners to ensure that immigrant populations are fully integrated into the social and economic fabric of California. We also are committed to the long-term and critical work to expand civic engagement and empowerment for all Californians, building power and yielding results for years to come.
Tim Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation. This blog originally appeared on their site.