Science, technology, engineering, and math—the “STEM” subjects—are an important focus of philanthropic institutions trying to address educational and economic disparities between girls and boys.

STEM-related fields account for an increasing number of new, and high-paying, positions being created in the knowledge economy. Especially for young women of color or in low-income communities, who already face additional social barriers in finding new and well-paid jobs, a strong STEM background can be a stepping stone to a better career.

Yet historically so many girls have dropped out of STEM courses by middle school there was even a special name for it—the “leaky pipeline.” And after decades of effort and philanthropic support, the field has made great strides in identifying and addressing a host of barriers to girls’ STEM achievement.

These include negative parental attitudes, unconscious teacher bias, “stereotype threat,” the girl-unfriendly climate in many computer labs, masculine teaching methods in STEM courses, and the lack of female role models.

When it was realized that girls were exiting STEM classes as soon as they became elective in middle school, some school systems simply stopped making them elective the final years of high school. As a result, while they’re not in any danger of surpassing boys, today a higher percentage of girls are taking STEM classes than ever.
Yet despite this progress, there are also signs that there are other barriers philanthropic institutions and practitioners have left unaddressed.

This has left some wondering if the leaky pipeline hasn’t been plugged, as much as delayed.

Could it be that along with all the external and interpersonal barriers we’ve addressed, there are personal ones as well, beginning with the girls’ own attitudes around femininity and STEM?

Through support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, and with guidance from STEM leaders like the National Girls Collaborative Project at EdLab, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and Sally Ride Science, we’ve been convening some preliminary focus groups with young women of color to ask them what they think. The white paper of our results is posted online, along with a clearinghouse of key studies.

The question is interesting because mastering traditional norms of femininity and masculinity are a central rite of passage—perhaps the central rite of passage—for every young person. This can be especially true during the “gender intensification years” of late adolescence and early teens, when interest in traditional gender norms accelerates and belief in them starts to solidify.

This is when young men come under increasing pressure to “man up” and show their masculinity, which unfortunately does not include sitting quietly in class, docilely following teacher instruction, and keeping their nose buried in books. It’s also when young men of color, who previously did as well as or better than white peers, begin getting lower grades and increasing problems with school disciplinary regimes.

In fact, in early grades, girls often do as well as boys and express as much interest. It’s around late adolescence and early teens that the pipeline begins to leak in earnest. Even girls who had good STEM grades and previously expressed strong interest suddenly begin to get lower grades, express disinterest, and avoid elective STEM courses.

It’s widely acknowledged that most STEM courses—particularly the so-called “hard sciences” and engineering—are perceived as “masculine subjects.” Could it be that it’s in middle school that girls begin to feel caught in a double-bind, one in which they can either opt out of femininity or opt out of STEM, and STEM is the loser?

As the mother of a sixth-grade girl who wants to be a veterinarian, loves computers and thinks being home-schooled in science this summer would be “cool,” I have more than a passing interest in the answer.

In our groups, girls were quick to affirm that they could be both pretty and good at science and math. Yet in one group, after giving us the “right” answer, girls immediately described a pretty classmate with long hair who “no one sees as a pretty girl because she is so smart. She’s like a nerd.”

When asked specifically if they could be feminine, smart and popular with boys, their response was “Yes, but not in junior high!” This was followed by much laughter.

When we asked the girls why, they said because as they became more interested in boys, they had to “dumb it down.” So we presented them with studies showing that around third grade girls stop doing as well in math and science. They agreed with the studies.

In some ways, this has left us with more questions than answers. First, while we focused mostly on low-income girls of color, do these kinds of results vary by race and class, and if so how? Second, if there is a conflict between being feminine and being smart, why does it show up so much more with STEM than, say art or English? Moreover, some girls said they loved math in elementary school, but as they became more focused on being pretty, tending to their appearance, and getting boys’ attention in late elementary school, they fell behind. And once behind, catching up became impossible and they lost all interest in math.

Perhaps another reason the leaky pipeline shows up more in STEM than in art or English is because STEM achievement often builds on a prior foundation of knowledge. It may also turn out that better addressing feminine norms will make other methods for addressing STEM barriers more effective.

For instance, new studies have found that very feminine STEM role models may actually demotivate young girls, and that female STEM role models are no more effective than males because of assumptions about gender norms.

Whatever the final answers are, it seems clear that gender norms are a significant variable, and one at which researchers, practitioners, and philanthropic institutions must look more closely if we are to continue improving STEM interest and participation.

Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild.

Meghan Duffy Ideas to Impact: A Tool that Places Homeless Individuals in Supportive Housing

By: Meghan Duffy, In: My Giving Story| Philanthropy

24 Apr 2013

Scotty calls himself “the medical miracle.” By the time he was 15 years old, he had been hospitalized 23 times and thrown out of his last foster home because of mounting medical bills. Scotty suffers from a rare genetic disorder that prevents his body from metabolizing protein, a condition that landed him in the hospital consistently during childhood and plagued his adult life in the form of seizures and blackouts that made it impossible to hold a steady job. His chronic unemployment made health insurance unaffordable, and left him unable to manage his medical condition. As a result, he remained chronically homeless, struggled with a drug addiction that aggravated his medical issues, and lost touch with his children and family over the years.

Scotty’s life looks very different today. Since February 2012 he has been living in supportive housing, which is affordable housing that provides access to health and social services such as mental health and addiction therapy, medical care, case management, and employment services. During this time Scotty reduced his hospital visits from 52 down to just three. He also has a service dog, which he affectionately named Momas, and he volunteers at his church as an usher.

Scotty was connected to supportive housing services by OPCC and the Los Angeles Economic Roundtable after being identified as a high-need and high-use individual using the 10th Decile Triage Tool. Created by the Economic Roundtable, this tool allows hospitals to quickly recognize which homeless patients are most in need of supportive housing services—and are in the top 10 percent of hospital system users—and to move them to permanent housing in the care of organizations like OPCC.

Through funding from CSH and the Social Innovation Fund, the Economic Roundtable has been able to spread the adoption of the tool to more participating hospitals and partner organizations like OPCC. As a result, more chronically homeless individuals are getting connected to supportive housing and the consistent care that they need, while also reducing the strain on public service institutions.

Scotty’s story not only represents the impact that nonprofit organizations and their partners create in our communities by transforming the lives of people in need. It also demonstrates how nonprofits are pursuing new approaches to extend their reach and impact, some that involve organizational growth and others that do not. By emphasizing the spread and adoption of a proven tool, CSH and the Economic Roundtable were able to look beyond their own organizational walls to make faster progress to advance their missions and create more value for their communities.

For funders that want their limited grant dollars to have the greatest impact possible, investing in the spread of a new idea or tool carries enormous potential, especially at a time when we are all struggling to do more with less. This trend is explored further in GEO’s newest publication, Pathways to Grow Impact—based on a collaborative project with Ashoka, Social Impact Exchange, Taproot Foundation, and TCC Group—that presents a framework for understanding the different strategies nonprofits are pursuing and the grantmaker practices that support these efforts.

To learn about other success stories like Scotty’s from nonprofits and grantmakers involved in the Social Innovation Fund, visit GEO’s Scaling What Works initiative here.

Meghan Duffy is manager of special initiatives at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.

I spent the first day of spring 2013 fast-walking Capitol Hill with foundation colleagues from all across the country. Hundreds of us were there for Foundations on the Hill, philanthropy’s annual push to remind lawmakers why giving matters.

In brief encounters with our elected officials and their staffs, we tried to connect the dots between their priorities and ours. We reminded them of the essential work our grantees are doing every day to make communities better, to make our nation stronger and more just.

The best Foundations on the Hill moments come when you find yourself sitting across a small table from a U.S. senator as she nods and says, “Exactly. I know. I’m with you. Tell me what I can do to help.”

The funniest moments come when you realize the junior staffer who’s been tapped to meet with you doesn’t actually know what a foundation is. He blinks and asks, “So, foundations—is that the construction industry then?” I am a great believer in the value of humbling experiences. Foundations on the Hill is good that way.

Most years we’ve put forward a number of talking points on policies to protect and enhance philanthropy. This year, though, as deficit reduction and tax reform dominate the national discourse, the Council on Foundations and its Foundations on the Hill co-sponsors urged us to focus on one single point: preservation of the charitable deduction in the tax code.

The charitable deduction works roughly like this. If you give $100 to a charitable organization and itemize that gift on your tax return, your taxable income is reduced by that $100. If you pay federal income tax at the 25 percent rate, you pay $25 less in tax that year. If you pay at the highest rate, which is now 39.6 percent, you pay $39.60 less. So the deduction provides a larger savings to wealthier taxpayers.

That fact has led to repeated proposals by the current administration to cap the deduction at 28 percent as a way to make sure more revenue remains subject to taxation at the highest level. In other words, a $100 gift from a taxpayer in the 39.6 percent tax bracket would reduce the giver’s taxable income not by $39.60, but by $28. The notion is that such a cap will bring desperately needed funds into the treasury in a way that wealthier donors can easily afford.

This sounds good, but credible research suggests the change would drive down charitable giving. The negative impact on the nonprofit sector could be massive—on the order of $5.6 billion in yearly donations that would dry up. The Charitable Giving Coalition points out that this is more than the annual budgets of the American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries International, YMCA of the USA, Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Catholic Charities USA, and the American Cancer Society combined.

This loss of resources, which would be felt by nonprofits already hit hard by the Great Recession, is unacceptable. Our charitable institutions and the communities they serve simply cannot afford a deficit solution that drives down charitable giving.

I also came away from Foundations on the Hill with a sharpened sense of why this idea is not just alarming in practice, but flawed in theory, too. Ever since its creation a century ago, the charitable deduction has enshrined in the tax code a quintessentially American idea: Charitable giving comes before our obligation to fund Uncle Sam. That’s why the deduction operates by reducing taxable income. The money my family chooses to give to the local food shelf, or our public radio station, or the Red Cross, is money invested in the common good rather than saving or spending it ourselves. It should not be subject to government intervention, including the government’s taxing authority.

We in the social sector should embrace the challenge of meeting our nation’s fiscal challenges. We should offer our help and our best thinking. But if we accept the idea that a charitable deduction capped at 28 percent is good enough, then we accept that the government comes first. In this country, the people come first, not our government. We, the people, give generously to the community organizations we care about. The tax deduction for those gifts has endured through many crises, including two world wars and the Great Depression. Lawmakers who assert that today’s challenges are graver than those, and that therefore we must weaken this provision, should look elsewhere for the revenue we need.

Kevin Walker is president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation.

Source: Charitable Giving in America: An Infographic, Charitable Giving Coalition, 2012.

This perspective on the charitable deduction was informed by a presentation by attorney Alexander Reid, former staff member for the Joint Committee on Taxation, on March 19, 2013, during Foundations on the Hill.

I recently presented an infographic learning session using Google+ Hangouts on Air. While I’ve scheduled virtual learning sessions through my affinity group and another organization in the past, registration numbers for these events have usually topped out around 70. But this event grew to almost 160 registrants. In order to understand why, I conducted a review that allowed me to identify four major factors. These four points may provide value to other organizations looking to innovate their current practices:

1. Take advantage of “learning windows” to engage your audience. With much buzz around the use of infographics, I wanted to take advantage of the current popularity of the topic and market a learning session that would focus on creating infographics with online tools made for the non-designer. By marketing the session to “non-designers,” I think that more people were able to identify with that term and deemed the session valuable enough to register.

2. Understand the impact potential of the engaged, tech-savvy professional. Although I marketed the session as usual, engaged professionals did the lion’s share of the work by posting session information to websites and forwarding registration information via social media and e-mail lists. I was surprised to see how many people forwarded the message without being prompted.

3. Innovate the delivery of the content. Attendees were interested not only in the session topic but also in gaining experience with Hangouts on Air. In fact, some attendees e-mailed me to thank me for providing an opportunity to try out the technology.

4. Remove as many barriers as possible:

  • Barrier I: Fees. Having been disappointed in the past because I was unable to attend learning events due to cost, I try to make the events I plan free. By thinking creatively, I’ve successfully used free tools and recruited high-caliber presenters who volunteer their time and expertise because they believe in the importance of helping others grow.
  • Barrier II: Technology. Remove as many technology barriers as possible by providing several options to participate. With this session, I provided two streaming options to registrants. In addition, registrants were offered an opportunity to practice streaming the content so that they could identify technology issues and connect with me to resolve them prior to the event.
  • Barrier III: Busy schedules. A great feature of Hangouts on Air is having your session recorded and posted to your YouTube account. This is an excellent feature to capture and share information with those who may not be able to make the live event but are still eager to learn. When I marketed this session, I made sure to highlight that registrants could access the information even if they had a scheduling conflict since the event was being recorded.

If you would like to learn more about marketing learning, team up with your foundation’s librarian to identify resources that can help you take it to the next level.

Sophia Guevara is the chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries affinity group

Blistering sunlight broils our small group as we gingerly perch around the edges of the raised bed our hosts have set out for us in front of their hut in Godha Village. We’ve come to visit a few of the 100 ultra-poor women in rural Uttar Pradesh recently employed by our local partner, a social-venture dairy firm called Samridhi Agri Products.

A funding chain connects Samridhi, invested in and advised by my nonprofit partner Upaya Social Ventures in Seattle, to my San Francisco foundation, which has partially funded and advised Upaya. Our family foundation deploys both seed grants and social-impact investments to innovative organizations providing self-help to end poverty. It’s simple: we want everyone to have the same shot at school, work, and self-determination that we’ve had. We believe intention matters, with every dollar and hour we give.

We’ve supported local scholarships for homeless and low-income teens; global adult education and health care delivered through microfinance channels; recycled bicycles for schoolgirls in Africa and college loans for youth in developing countries; a Laundromat microenterprise in Appalachia and a nutrition program for impoverished kids in East Dayton. Our funding targets pragmatic solutions—rather than temporary relief, life-changing opportunities. We also provide storytelling for innovative nonprofits, to broadcast their courageous day-to-day efforts to change the world. Often, as here in India, our financial and literary investments overlap, and I find myself face to face with clients who’ve benefited from, in this case, jobs.

The dairy farmers we’re visiting haven’t been told anything about the financials. They’ve only heard we are American “cousins” of Lokesh, the founder of Samridhi. And they know that “Sushma” (my temporary Indian name) has traveled from the United States to gather their stories to take home to America.

However, I don’t look too much like Lokesh’s cousin. My ghostly pale skin and hair really stand out here, and I don’t speak a word of Hindi. I’m just a bumbling American, touring through the backcountry of one of India’s poorest regions. I don’t feel out of place as a foreigner, though, because people look directly into my eyes—no aversion—and then give me big, toothy grins. Actually, I’m having a five-star experience amid this cluster of kaccha huts.


These cow and goat farmers cannot imagine my life back home, because they have no electricity here for television or Internet—thus, no way to cultivate two-dimensional stereotypes of life in faraway places. They don’t know that my walk-in closet is the size of their houses, that we have four televisions, or that I have a personal chef named Trader Joe’s (it’s a West Coast thing). They just shake their heads when asked what message they wish to send back to America.

What they do know is that they’ve bumped from 50 cents to $2/day income through steady, home-based employment, with livestock assets of their own accruing in the process. They are eager to talk about their work.

“My three goats are eating well. I am excited about this program,” says Saraswati, a 42-year-old mother of three who asserts that her goats have distinct personalities. “One of them was very angry when he was little, but now they’ve all calmed down and become friends.” She smiles, curling her ringed toes into the dust at her feet and flinging her hands wide as she speaks.

“Well, my arthritis really bothers me,” her 60-year-old neighbor Draupadi chimes in, “and my husband works in a traveling wedding band, so I’m the sole caretaker of my goats. However, compared to other jobs, this is better.”

Other jobs Draupadi has worked: trash picking, stone-splitting, and begging.

As the sun beats down, I lift my scarf to create a canopy of shade with one hand, while my other hand scribbles notes. Lokesh asks questions in the women’s dialect and translates them back to me. I lose some layers of cultural nuance, but the process gives me time to record quotations and impressions. Besides, we have Sriram from Bangalore and Garima from Lucknow, whispering insiders’ commentary: “A woman riding a bicycle and working as a veterinary assistant is completely shocking here. Usually, the women’s husbands bring the milk to the village collection center because it’s more acceptable.”

I ask questions constantly: How old is she? How does she spend her extra income? Why is she wearing such a fancy sari on a workday? What would she study if she had the chance to go back to school with her kids?


We visit three villages. The huts we visit represent 67.8 percent of Indians—who live on less than $2/day and work as farmers tilling soil as share-croppers, surrendering half their harvest, or walking for hours on the unpaved dirt roads, government card in hand, hoping for a few days per month of unskilled labor at a road or house construction site.

Until now, village residents accepted the status quo. Samridhi’s 22-year-old Garima Siwach says she has seen “deeply ingrained multigenerational poverty, in which several generations just continue to repeat the lifestyle of their forebears without questioning it or trying to advance.” Having recently completed graduate school in Mumbai and turned down city life and corporate comfort to build the ultra-poor program here, Garima has seen the beginning of a shift. “When we gave the first trainings, only the husbands showed up,” she recalls. “Later, the women came”—and the animals were signed over in their names, allowing the men to continue as day-laborers. Families saw their incomes double and triple through the women’s new jobs, which paid steady wages with bonuses for higher milk quantity and quality.

During this trip I will travel through north and east India with my notebook in one hand and a camera in the other. I will take a hundred of  pages of notes for two NGOs (Upaya Social Ventures and Freedom from Hunger). I will catch a nasty cold and get sick to my stomach. I’ll do a lot of sweating and very little sleeping. And when I return home, my coworker’s Indian-American mother and her friends will scratch their heads and ask: “Why in God’s name would Suzanne want to travel to Uttar Pradesh? We grew up in India, yet we’d never venture there.”


Why wouldn’t I? Where’s the adventure in bicycling through Tuscany or beach-lolling in Tahiti? The truth is that I get a lot more out of storytelling than my subjects do. Storytelling, an aspect of social metrics and due diligence for me, gets me places far beyond the well-worn tourist path. On this trip, I got the chance to worship Lord Ganesh in a temple high atop the folded mountains of the Aravali range in Rajasthan; share fresh, hot vegetable-stuffed puchkas with a health care teacher in her third-floor apartment near Orissa; and stroll through Humayun’s tomb and gardens with my coworker Sachi, reliving the year she lived in Delhi with her husband. I gained five pounds gobbling buttered naan, saw wild boar gnashing trash in a village near Jaipur, and passed giggling girls singing their way to a wedding in Kolkata. Like many lucky tourists, I got the chance to drink in the Taj Mahal. However, I also got served chai in the back courtyard of Saraswati’s one-room brick house in Godha. And that, to me, rates five stars.

Suzanne Skees is founder/director of the Skees Family Foundation.

I enjoyed presenting at a great session, “Small Grants, Big Difference,” during last week’s Council on Foundations Annual Conference with Daniel Tillias of Pax Christi Sakala in Haiti; Kate Ahern of the Case Foundation; and Monica LaBiche Brown of Water for People. It was great that 75 or more people came to our session because they think small grants are important. I think it’s the beginning of a movement.

In case you missed it, here are some key takeaways.

Small is relative. We had funders in the room giving $5,000 grants, while others gave $1 million or more. But what is small—and meaningful—depends on a lot of factors.

  • The size of the organization makes a difference. A $5,000 grant can be a significant investment to a grassroots organization, a start-up, or a scrappy network run on volunteer power.
  • Flexible small funding can have greater value than highly restricted funding. A $10,000 flexible grant can be a lot more valuable than $100,000 with lots of strings attached.
  • Purchasing power matters. $5,000 spends differently in Kansas City or New York City or Katmandu.
  • Small grants accompanied by other nonfinancial supports can maximize and multiply the actual value of the grant. Leverage, introductions, connections, convening, and organizational development or capacity-building can make a small grant worth more than its actual monetary value.

Small grants are powerful. Small grants might be dismissed as a drop in the bucket in a world full of big grants and big programs. But often a small grant can be a game changer.

  • Small funding can allow for innovation. While key program and operational support must be raised—often in large sums—to run core programs, a small grant might be just the thing needed to add a technology component or test a new concept.
  • A small grant can open a door to big things. In Haiti, few girls were benefiting from Sakala’s programs. While it was socially acceptable for boys to play sports at the community center without shirts or shoes, that was not the case for girls. A grant to help girls get shoes allowed them to take part in the program. That’s right, a grant for shoes brought about gender equity!
  • Being the first or an early funder can provide an inflection point for organizations. Daniel of Sakala mentioned that early funding from The Global Fund for Children attracted new donors. It brought credibility, capacity-building, leverage, and visibility they would not have had otherwise. Not bad for $10,000.

Small grants are different—and the same—as large grants. Small grants work much the same way that large grants do. Prospecting, proposals, reporting, and monitoring are key similarities in the grants management process. However, a few things can help small grants make as big a difference as larger grants.

  • Know thyself; be clear about what you want to achieve. Is seed funding a goal?   Perhaps a small grant program can be formed around capacity-building, innovation, scouting, and discovery, or used as a magnet and leverage for larger funding and visibility. Each of these goals is significant and can be achieved with small grants.
  • Measurement and monitoring matter, but should not be on the same scale as larger grants. Evaluation and learning must be commensurate with the grant—no randomized clinical trials for $25,000 grants to $150,000-level nonprofits. Still, clear metrics and goals for small grants will go a long way in tracking the impact achieved. At The Global Fund for Children, we are a scouting and capacity-building grantmaker. Our metrics are around finding promising organizations with budgets under $100,000; being the first U.S. institutional funder; and affecting and tracking our leverage efforts for bigger impact.
  • Be unapologetic. Too often small grants are accompanied by the word “only” or “just”—as in, “We are just a small foundation, our grants are only around $10,000.” In a world of big dollars and brand name funders, it’s hard not to feel like the little guy. But never have I heard a nonprofit say that a $5,000 grant didn’t matter.

There’s no one size fits all in philanthropy. Small grants are the right size for many, and can make big impact.

Victoria Dunning is vice president for programs at The Global Fund for Children.

Starting May 1, Knight Foundation will again be offering matching funds to community and place-based foundations seeking to make an impact by funding news and information projects. This year, however, the Knight Community Information Challenge is evolving.

While the challenge will continue to be an open contest for all kinds of media projects, this year we will be offering up to $50,000 in seed funding to foundations for new ideas. Our goal is to provide the support funders need to test their ideas and assumptions, and iterate as need be, before going on to the more costly process of building out a full project.

Also in this round, we will be particularly interested in open government projects, an area we think shows great promise.

What does this mean? Our definition of open government is somewhat broad. We’re looking for projects that improve the way citizens and governments interact. For ideas, you might look at the recent entries—and 40 finalists—in the foundation’s innovation contest, the Knight News Challenge. Perhaps someone in your community has an idea you’d like to partner with, or you see an idea you’d like to import into your community.

We’ll be talking more about these changes during a webinar at 1 p.m. ET on May 1. You can register here.

As traditional media models began to falter, Knight started the challenge as a way to encourage local funders to help communities be informed about and engaged in issues important to them. Over the first five years, the challenge has funded more than 100 impactful projects, from Anchorage to Puerto Rico, with foundations embracing their leadership role in promoting the informed communities our democracy requires. Perhaps most importantly, these projects are having a measurable impact on issues foundations care about. In fact, two-thirds of challenge grantees say they’ve influenced community behaviors through their project, and a third have seen a policy change at the local level.

Projects have moved the needle on safeguarding the local water supply in Virginia, protected against hazardous trucking in Wyoming, changed the policy for car seizures in Los Angeles that hamper low income residents, and more. You can read more about challenge projects, and how they were put together, in case studies we published earlier this year.

We know there are more ideas out there in more places, and we’re excited to hear about them.

The grant contest is one of four ways we will expand and extend the Knight Community Information Challenge into 2015. We will also:

  • Expand Technical Assistance: We’re increasing the numbers and skill base for the team of consultants we call Circuit Riders so that they can help foundations no matter what phase of the project they are in. The Knight Digital Media Center at the University of Southern California also will offer skills training tailored to funders.
  • Create Learning Networks: We will be applying what we have learned over the last five years to make some more pointed investments in the projects that have worked best. We will invest more in some of our proven early adopters, and in return we will ask them to share what they have learned with their peers.
  • Continue the Media Learning Seminar: We’ll also continue the annual winter gathering in Miami, which has become the place for foundations to explore trends and share learnings.

Foundation leaders from across the country shared their thinking and expertise to help us craft the extension of the Knight Community Information Challenge. While many have fully embraced the value of news and information to increasing their leadership roles in communities, others have yet to join us in this movement. We believe—and these leaders agreed—that a multi-pronged approach would be most successful in reaching and supporting the field.

We hope you agree and will join us in this important work—whether launching a project, attending the Media Learning Seminar, or taking advantage of the skills training we’ve created to support you.

There’s much more information available at, and we hope you’ll join us for the webinar on May 1.

Susan Patterson is program director/Charlotte and Bahia Ramos is director/community foundations for the Knight Foundation.

Jenny Chan Measuring a Good Idea

By: Jenny Chan, In: 2013 Annual Conference| Nonprofits| Philanthropy

17 Apr 2013

Thank you, Jennifer Lentfer, for making it okay to say, “I don’t know.” Well, for encouraging us to say it more frequently, anyway.

Her Values and Evidence – Not at Odds: Seeking a Healthier Relationship with Results in International Philanthropy talk explored our preoccupation with measuring positive impact. One of our conclusions in the break-out session was that there should be “no numbers without stories” and no “stories without numbers.”

While this mantra works well where nonprofits are delivering projects themselves (i.e., for organizations that offer scholarships to girls to go to school in India or for those that support asylum seekers to obtain their benefits in the UK), measuring and subsequently evidencing impact and change can be more difficult for nonprofits that don’t have this direct function.

I work for Family for Every Child, which works to ensure that children can grow up in a safe and caring family. Having delivered projects ourselves in the past and then through local partnerships, we have realised that greatest change can only be brought about by empowering strong, national NGOs and giving them a voice. As we reach 2015 and global leaders review what has been achieved and what still needs to be done, the ability to advocate at the international level is even more important.

Consequently, we have gathered more than 300 years of experience in the shape of a global alliance to bring about maximum impact. Our growing membership delivers fantastic projects that are unique to their own contexts. The support that they need is not help on the ground—easily measurable—but to bring about changes in the policies of their own governments and internationally. As a sole voice, their impact is small; as a global alliance it is great.

On the whole, we all agree in the power of collaborative working. It brings down costs; it has far-reaching impact; and members are able to learn from one another–in the case of Family for Every Child, through practice exchanges. However, “I don’t know” is a frequent answer when working in a coalition and this just won’t cut the mustard for many grantmakers.

Following the causal chain is difficult when there are so many actors all working toward the same goal. Was it the conversation that the Brazilian member had with a government official that brought about change or was it the event in India, which was reported in the newspapers, that brought about the change?

As Jason Saul said in the Measurement: Really? What’s Good Enough? session, what really matters is the end goal. Allow nonprofits to share what we can measure and then to say “I don’t know” when we can’t measure it. Sometimes you just can’t measure a good idea.

Jenny Chan is development manager at Family for Every Child (

Russell Conwell was a motivational speaker at the turn of the 20th century who had a famous talk called “Acres of Diamonds” that he allegedly delivered 6,000 times. The talk began with a story about an ancient Arab—Ali Hafed—who longed to find a diamond mine so that he could influence the world with his riches. When he asked a holy man where he could find diamonds, the holy man told him he would find them where a river runs through white sands between black mountains. Ali Hafed sold his farm and went in search of these diamonds, but in vain: He died alone and poor.

Meanwhile, the man who’d bought his farm was watering his camel one day in the front yard in a little stream that ran through white sands. There he noticed a black rock with an unusual sparkle, which he picked up. When that same holy man came by and noticed the rock, he exclaimed, “Where did you find that diamond?” For it turns out that Ali Hafed had been living in a field of diamonds all along and never realized the wealth surrounding him.

We in the Council on Foundations are a bit like Ali Hafed—surrounded by incredible riches without realizing it. Those riches are the other people in our network dedicated to the common good, the amazing potential of which we are just beginning to realize.

The question for the Council is: How can we best maximize this potential?

When the board invited me to join the Council last July, it was with the mandate that we change our traditional mode of service. We had failed to stay abreast of change and were stuck in a traditional, transaction-based model that no longer served us. In 2012, we rolled out a reinvention that I call going from Council 1.0 to Council 2.0. That redesign is still very much underway because we want this process to evolve with you, reflecting all the changes you’re going through.

What’s interesting is that the process the Council is going through in redefining its role within philanthropy is a microcosm for a much bigger process happening all around us in which philanthropy is redefining its role within society.

We live in times of unprecedented change, where innovations are happening faster than ever. Philanthropy is also undergoing dynamic change. Still, as a field, we are not evolving as rapidly as we must in order to keep pace with change. Our mode of thinking is still largely influenced by an ideal that took shape 100 years ago, with the development of organized philanthropy.

Don’t misunderstand me: The accomplishments led by charitable foundations have been phenomenal. Yet I’m concerned we are missing opportunities for advancing the common good because we’re constrained by old ways of thinking and operating. That’s why I say: This is philanthropy’s critical moment.

It is our critical moment because so many don’t understand the vital contribution philanthropy makes in collaboration with the broader charitable sector, and they must.

It is our critical moment because crucial social issues we resolved to take part in solving are going unfixed, and our communities pay the price.

It is our critical moment because the social compact that gives so many organizations their lifeblood through charitable contributions is being seriously challenged.

It is our critical moment because we must embrace new philanthropic approaches that are emerging, or risk becoming less relevant in a changing world.

We want the next generation to say: If you think the first 100 years of philanthropy were impressive, the next 100 years were even greater.

For that to happen, though, we have to think differently about how we are going to work with each other and with the public and private sectors. Gone are the days of one-off transactions. Going forward, partnerships across our sector and other sectors will be at the core of the Council’s work. The new Council will be about connectivity, networking, trend and pattern identification, and leveraging the full talent and capacity of our field and other fields with which we collaborate. In this new role as a hub within a larger philanthropic network, we will nurture a web of relationships—not just among Council members, but also with government, business, academia, social service agencies, and more.

We are not abandoning our core work of providing such services as public policy and advocacy, legal guidance, professional development, and conferences and meetings. But we are shifting how our work is informed. We have a unique vantage point for recognizing emerging trends and commonalities, connecting people, and providing you with an avenue of continued collaboration across these different entities, and we want to leverage that perspective.

Please understand, though: The reach and influence of the new Council is not so much a reflection of our power as it is a reflection of your power. You are the network—and that makes you the key to unlocking philanthropy’s power for the next 100 years.

That’s why this is a critical moment for philanthropy. There is big work for all of us to do in the world—but it won’t get done by staying who we’ve been. We must communicate philanthropy’s value in a way that transforms a general lack of awareness into a great appreciation and understanding of the impact we have together. Each of us can and must convey this message about philanthropy’s value. You are the ones on the ground everywhere—caring, juggling, stretching resources, making social impact happen. We need each one of you with us, being ambassadors for the power of philanthropy. You can turn vision into action—and the new Council will be right there with you.

Vikki Spruill is president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. This blog was excerpted from her speech at last week’s Annual Conference.

Jenny Chan First Timer from Across the Pond

By: Jenny Chan, In: 2013 Annual Conference| Global Philanthropy| Philanthropy

15 Apr 2013

Having moved from London to New York just two weeks earlier, I walked into the Council on Foundatons’ day-long global preconference session with trepidation; would I remember what my organization did? Would the other attendees groan when they realised I was a fundraiser? Would they understand my funny English?

The day launched into a discussion on Civil Society and the Law, drawing to my attention a million and one difficulties that face charities (or rather, nonprofits to use the lingo here in the United States) and grantmakers alike. The hours and sessions flew by and I realised that nobody grimaced when I told them where I was from. Indeed, I had many a candid conversation with grants officers. Having sat on both sides of the fence, one grantmaker said to me, “The grass is not always greener. I would much rather be writing an application about the project than writing the report that accompanies the application.”

My understanding of philanthropy in the United States has grown exponentially, and I am grateful for the culture of openness and willingness that prevails here. While I appreciate that there are grantmakers who would prefer a “closed shop,” the sector as a whole benefits from the frank discussions that take place at these events. Understanding the key issues for you as grantmakers helps us as fundraisers to submit applications that are well-considered and allow you to achieve your goals.

The charity sector in the UK would benefit greatly if the UK equivalent of the Council on Foundations, the Association of Charitable Foundations, were to open its doors and encourage greater dialogue and interactions between grantmakers and grantseekers.

We would never see an event the size and scope of the ‘Annual Conference, but some kind of platform for mutual learning would be well-received. After all, we should see ourselves as being on the same side and not as opposite camps.

Jenny Chan is development manager at Family for Every Child (

I had a great time at the Council’s Annual Conference in Chicago. There were so many highlights and packed workshops, especially the lunch plenary featuring the mayors of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.

One thing that made it especially fun was the cool new app sponsored by the Knight Foundation. When I first downloaded it, I didn’t get it. Where was the heavy, glossy-sided brochure we’ve all have to carry around at every type of conference for decades?

But once I got into it, it was a game-changer. It was a whole different experience.

For instance, I scanned all the workshops and presenters, clicked on the ones that looked especially interesting, and it automatically built my own personal conference schedule. No more notes scribbled in margins or post-its. It included a hotel map, evaluation forms, and updates in real-time with any changes. I downloaded and installed it on Apple and Android and it worked on both. Good work Council!

Another development that other conferences should adopt is the “speed dating” some workshops incorporated. We go to conferences to make connections, right? This is networking on steroids. Everyone sits in two concentric circles. You share your story and then the person opposite you does the same. Then everyone shifts a seat. Repeat until done. You quickly connect with many folks you might never meet otherwise.

One of the things I enjoy about the Council’s Annual is the affinity group events. I attended some very intense, honest, and often raw workshops by the Association of Black Foundation Executives. And Hispanics in Philanthropy put on a really nice reception right before the Council’s big event at the beautiful Art Institute of Chicago. I’m all ready for next year’s conferencein Washington, D.C.

Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as having said: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Even a man of Jefferson’s brilliance could scarcely imagine the collapse of the newspaper industry, which was the only way that journalism was distributed in his time.

To continue reading this post please visit the Huffington Post.

Kevin Murphy is president of the Berks County Community Foundation and the Council’s board chair.

Jennifer Lentfer Where’s the Faith? The Space for Possibility and the Need for Certainty in Philanthropy

By: Jennifer Lentfer, In: 2013 Annual Conference| Global Philanthropy| Philanthropy

10 Apr 2013

It was seemingly straightforward. We had provided a small grant to an income-generating project in Malawi. It was to a youthful and energetic group that wanted to start a chicken project, and sell the eggs and the offspring to generate revenue to support their work.

But in their first report, the group explained to us that they had not seen any profit. That was, you see, because a “beast” had eaten all of the chickens. (I assure you I cannot make this stuff up.)

This is also why the group wanted to abandon chicken-rearing in favor of installing a paraffin pump, much like a gas pump you may be used to seeing when you fill up your car. This one would sell oil to light people’s homes and provide fuel for cooking. According to the group, this change in strategy would require much less upkeep, inputs, and security once it was up and running.

I was faced with a question. Would I fund this group again? What would it take for you to do so? More information? A little faith? Or a lot for that matter?

In philanthropy, our work is often focused on unanswered questions. What is development? What is aid, philanthropy, social enterprise, impact investing? Do they necessarily improve the lives of people who are poor? How can outsiders help in the most effective and sustainable ways? What kinds of beasts live in Malawi and how does one get into the chicken coup?

Many of us have observed what some call the growing “data dash” in the philanthropic sector. Earlier this year in his annual letter, Bill Gates extolled the gospel of measuring what we do in philanthropy. As a grantmaker and a monitoring and evaluation professional, I have personally been part of an increasing effort by donors and nonprofits to find more precise ways of measuring progress in order to make consequential judgments.

We’ve all heard these phrases, over and over, in myriad ways and contexts:

“It’s vital that we understand what works and what doesn’t work and why.”

“That’s all very well and good, but how would you measure that?”

“When do you anticipate that you’ll be able to see the results from this?”


In fact, the search for evidence has become ingrained in every aspect of grantmakers’ and grant seekers’ day-to-day work. Obviously, the need and the desire to be accountable in our industry are not going away. No one wants to see resources squandered, so it’s natural to look for ways to prevent this.

Some people see more evidence-seeking behavior very positively. To them, international philanthropy guided by data and objective decisions will be inherently more effective and less wasteful. With more information at our fingertips, grantmakers can take stronger steps toward ensuring accountability and value for money—or so the logic goes.

Some people see the search for evidence in a different light—as onerous, limiting, and burdensome. They see social change as a force beyond logic and induction. To them, abstract metrics and experimental design is far from the difficult, intimate, or complex factors at play.

Are these irreconcilable worldviews? Do you see the value in the rising demand for results? Or do you identify more with those who are the reluctant suppliers of our insatiable appetite for evidence?

There seems to be a growing polarity between the thinkers (the people who make decisions behind their desks, based on the information before them) and the doers (those working on the ground).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with deepening the thinking behind the doing. My own career has been devoted to this very endeavor. For me what matters most now is how the thinking takes place and what’s needed to enable us to listen and become more responsive and effective partners. Can we as grantmakers acknowledge and challenge our own policies and practices that can often marginalize and demotivate those at the forefront of social change?

Let’s start by pausing and asking ourselves one thing. Why are we doing all this measuring?

Jennifer Lentfer is the creator of

On the TV show 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin’s character is a GE/NBC executive in charge of “TV and microwave programming.” He has to turn around the show-within-a-show led by Tina Fey’s character and invent a new kind of oven. He comes up with a “trivection” oven that combines radiant, microwave, and convection heat, and hires for the show Tracy Morgan’s off-the-wall character, who declares on the air, “I am the third heat!!”

Impact investing may have discovered its third heat. At Monday’s lunch plenary, Sterling Speirn shared the Kellogg Foundation’s framework of assessing impact investment opportunities. In addition to a social return and a financial return, Kellogg expects a learning return. When it invested in Revolution Foods, a social enterprise that provides schools with healthy meals to serve to kids, it helped increase the number of meals provided, got a financial return of 28 percent in eight months, and learned what kinds of conditions need to be in place for an effective school partnership to flourish. The learning returns then get “reinvested” to inform Kellogg’s grant work on sustainable food systems.

What’s intriguing about this framework is that it applies not just to impact investing, but to all foundation investments: grants, loans, PRIs, etc. For all of them, you can ask three questions: What is our expected social return? What is our expected financial return? What is our expected learning return?

It just so happens that the expectation of a direct financial return on grants is negative. You don’t expect to get any of the money back as a funder. You expect it to be spent on what’s been agreed to and to achieve the results you want, but not to get the money back. It’s a fixed negative financial return, one you accept in exchange for the social returns.

But you can also get the third heat from grants: learning returns. What do effective practices look like in the field? What components of the programs you support generate the direct outcomes that most interest the organization and you? What is the state of the field? How well is the community engaged in the programs and organizations you’re supporting? Ideally, these learning goals flow directly from the impact goals you’ve set as an organization. Learning returns inform social returns, and vice versa.

Do you think explicitly about what your expected learning returns are from your grants? Would you structure, monitor, or evaluate your grants differently if you asked of each one, “What is our learning return?”

Chris Cardona is associate director of philanthropy at TCC Group. He blogs about philanthropy and democracy at

It’s a little unfair to sit through a 90-minute panel and laud it for what it covered and rap it for what it missed, but in a way, that’s the challenge of sessions at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference. Listening to the discussions is a matter of looking for trends and patterns, the big ideas that are gaining traction among funders, the concepts that are increasingly “common currency,” and what has turned into yesterday’s news.

With that caveat, here are some reactions to the issues discussed during yesterday’s panel, The Future of Journalism and Why It Matters to Philanthropy.  This session was quick to get to the heart of the issue for media funders and grantees alike.  Robert Rosenthal of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) offered an early summary:  “High quality information that protects and serves democracy is not only an ideal, but will be successful in business terms.” In fact, if there was an overwhelming message in the panel, it was Rosenthal’s contention that funders have to understand a new generation of journalists motivated by creative ways of storytelling.

The panelists talked about supporting nonprofit journalism in siloed interest areas—or readers’ supporting journalism based on the silo in which they operate, a focus on local news here or there, well known but young outlets such as MinnPost and the Texas Tribune, or a focus on a specific topic within a specific geography such as Philadelphia Tech News or California Watch. There are also some “national siloes” that merit attention; for example, one of my favorites, not mentioned by the panelists, the Daily Yonder published by the nonprofit Center for Rural Strategies. Foundations need to pay attention to multiple siloes that may not fit neat channels of supplementing or supplanting local legacy media outlets.

Nonetheless, there is the challenge of the business model. Bruce Sagan, the publisher of the Herald Newspapers, repeatedly suggested that the problem and the solution is the cultural challenge of readers thinking that the Web is free. He seemed quite convinced that people would eventually, with cultural change, come to see that paying for online content is appropriate, necessary, and doable. Some of us aren’t sure that model works, regardless of his optimism, and a questioner from the floor challenged his assumptions quite nicely.

Rosenthal’s confidence was in new media creating content for other organizations, taking risks in storytelling (he cited CIR’s work on doing animations in their storytelling), and not becoming wedded to any one specific model. He suggested that sponsorships or underwriting of specific events or efforts can be productive, but only as long as the funders don’t try to have their funding accompanied by their control of content. As a result, Rosenthal abjures efforts by funders to link their funding for CIR to taking advocacy positions or tied to the funders’ other advocacy organizations.

Calvin Sims of the Ford Foundation described Ford’s benchmarks for its media funding of nonprofit and for-profit venues, geared toward justifying the philanthropic appropriateness of Ford’s funding of for-profit entities such as NBC and the Los Angeles Times, but they appeared to be solid benchmarks for the nonprofit media to consider in general:  (1) the content should significantly increase what the public knows about the specific topic or topics being covered; (2) you should aim for wide reach, not necessarily just in terms of media impressions, but in term of the pick-up of the content and its impact on the media landscape; and (3) if possible, the content should be linked to some social change. The work of Rosenthal’s group in investigating the huge wait times at the VA office in Oakland Calif., generating research on wait times at VA offices all around the country and culminating in an announcement by President Obama that he was going to rectify the dysfunctional VA bureaucracy is a good example that seems to meet the criteria laid out by Sims.

One topical news silo that escaped discussion was nonprofit media providing daily or near-daily coverage of nonprofits and philanthropy (a space that Nonprofit Quarterly shares with the Philanthropy News Digest, the Non-Profit Times, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and not many others). The coverage of 1.48 million 501(c) tax-exempt entities, including 1.08 million 501(c)(3) public charities ( employing an estimated 15.59 million workers, is a significant news silo not to be overlooked—although it routinely is. It’s a big sector of news to be missed.

“Quality information has value,” Rosenthal concluded. I’d add that nonprofit media represents a critical aspect of the nonprofit sector’s contribution to a specific value of small “d” democracy. Hopefully that’s what foundations can see as the rationale for why journalism matters to philanthropy.

Rick Cohen is a columnist for NonProfit Quarterly.

Jeff Hoffman Three Important Concepts for Corporate Philanthropy

By: Jeff Hoffman, In: 2013 Annual Conference| Corporate Philanthropy| Philanthropy

8 Apr 2013

Evolving the narrative. Leadership imperative. Our path forward.

Three simple, but important concepts discussed in yesterday morning’s corporate pre-conference forum at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference. Or as my friend, colleague, and recently retired IBM executive, Ann Cramer, said, “Stewarding our resources for the betterment of the world!”

This year’s session was a follow-up to last year’s debut of the Council’s report: “Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioners Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy.” Ann moderated a panel with Joy Marini of Johnson & Johnson, Jacob Gayle of Medtronic, and Nicole Robinson of Mondelez International. It was fascinating to learn how these three are evolving their company’s philanthropy, and more broadly their corporate citizenship, as their businesses change. The changes are many and include a spin-off, a new CEO, and a changing competitive landscape.

Nicole made a statement that eloquently re-states the concept of Shared Value, “Fueling business by creating well-being.” The case was made for how awareness of company initiatives, or amplifying priorities, can help move an issue’s agenda forward. True impact, and how you can measure real outcomes, continues to be a challenge. Companies, foundations, nonprofits, and government can deepen investment in social issues through collaboration. You should start out expecting resolve, based on evidence, with a cause that is aligned with the brand and engages employees, consumers, and other stakeholders—and then measure (and celebrate) the success.

The session then broke into small discussions on real issues facing practitioners, using role playing to discover viable solutions. The results from the table discussions will be used to help inform the development/refinement of the new companion to last year’s report, an assessment framework, and toolkit. The session was ended by Ann with a simple, but powerful sentence on the evolution of corporate philanthropy: “Spare change into real change!”

Jeff Hoffman is president of Jeff Hoffman & Associates (

With the drawdowns of U.S. military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, this nation faces a new challenge that should be front and center for U.S. foundations—the reintegration of veterans into society. Those of us from the Vietnam era remember a very different dynamic, a younger demographic of returning veterans, younger largely because they were draftees, facing a clearly less-than-welcoming home front. Today’s veterans are different—older, many more with families, and facing huge challenges coming back to a nation with high underemployment, unemployment, and government service cutbacks.

What can all foundations learn from yesterday’s important and timely workshop on philanthropic collaborations for veterans that helps ensure we don’t repeat the Vietnam experience in the resources and services provided to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan? Read on.

In his introduction to the panel, the McCormick Foundation’s Don Cooke said: “Even though the statistics (of veterans’ needs) are national, the work is local.” The panelists from McCormick, San Diego Grantmakers, the Lincoln Community Foundation (Lincoln, Neb.), and the Blue Shield of California Foundation highlighted local efforts geared to the specific military populations in their communities.

But there is a tension. The panelists generally talked about cooperation with the Veterans Administration (VA), but the recent news reports of the disintegration of the VA claim processing is pretty shocking. Cooke mentioned the enormous backlog of claims with the VA taking months, but in some areas of the country the wait is well over a year or even two years, according to press reports. Less than half of returning veterans sign up with the VA, presumably some because they know how their buddies have been treated.

Sarah Peetz of the Lincoln Community Foundation said that veterans are “coming back to communities, but not coming back to the Department of Defense or the VA.”  She suggested that communities have to “step it up” to help veterans, given their choice to bypass VA assistance. Participating in the fix of the VA might be an element of philanthropic advocacy so that the demand on nonprofits and foundations doesn’t take the place of a dysfunctional VA bureaucracy.

As Jennifer James, the San Diego Grantmakers consultant, noted, helping veterans reintegrate into their communities can’t start just when they leave military service. The focus of the foundation collaborative in San Diego helping “reboot” veterans for civilian life means, according to James, a time frame from six months prior to leaving the military to one year after leaving, the critical time period for helping veteran and their families transition, adjust, access services, and reintegrate.

Both Peetz and the McCormick Foundation’s Eli Williamson are working with the faith-based community. Peetz pointed out that the confidence of personnel in their military chaplains can carry over to their civilian life. The Lincoln Community Foundation brought together faith-based organizations to collaborate, and they created their own ongoing program of coordination for veterans, Interchurch Services.

Williamson pointed out that churches and faith-based providers often have more than one point of contact, reaching both individual veterans and their family members. He pointed out another relatively lesser known challenge faced by returning veterans—moral injury. Unlike PTSD, which involves flashbacks to horrific events of combat, moral injury occurs when veterans believe they violated their moral code and can’t forgive themselves. That sounds like an issue more likely to be revealed to a pastor or rabbi than to a VA clinician.

Williamson and others, Peetz in particular, talked about having to understand the culture of veterans in order to build trust between providers and veterans. McCormick’s Anna Laubach described the reluctance of veterans to access services from civilian providers, citing a problem of cultural competence. It would seem that if Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are reluctant to sign up with the VA and at the same time wary of civilian service providers, they could be falling into crevices that leave them with no place to turn. Add to that Cooke’s contention that there is a cacophony of veteran-related service organizations of varying quality and accountability. As he explained, “Some of the big national organizations are great at raising money but not so great at delivering programs.” It is a difficult scene for returning veterans to navigate.

Cooke noted in his wrap-up that the window of public attention to veterans’ issues is short, but the challenges veterans face in reintegrating into their communities are long-lasting. There is much to be done by the philanthropic sector in helping these men and women. Relatively few current foundation execs are veterans of any era. This workshop represented something important for philanthropy—the need for foundations to get outside the confines of their own personal experiences and be prepared to devote time and resources to people who find themselves deployed on battlefields half a world away.

Rick Cohen is a columnist for NonProfit Quarterly.

Accountability is a funny thing in philanthropy. For most funders, it’s self-driven. Therefore, it’s a matter of conscience-the territory of values, emotions, and vision. But accountability in the field is frequently discussed in terms of data and evaluation: “Using data to hold ourselves accountable.”

There are two problems here: One is that evaluation is not only about accountability, but just as importantly about learning and improvement. The other is that self-driven accountability won’t come just from facts and figures. The data don’t speak for themselves. “No stories without data, no data without stories.”

These and related ideas wove through and emerged from Saturday’s global philanthropy preconference session here in Chicago. And the content and tone of the dialogue serve as a harbinger of what’s to come for U.S. philanthropy. So listen up, “domestic” funders!

The “aid effectiveness debate” and a simultaneous push for more impact evaluation in international development have brought the practices of international funders–both government and private-under increased scrutiny. One of Saturday’s speakers talked about the rise of an “accountability class,” a cadre of organizations like MoveOn that has emerged to hold those in power more accountable to the people. In the global funding world, this takes the form of questioning the value of evaluation practices that don’t draw on local knowledge, and of development practices that don’t build local capacity. (The new president of the World Bank recently talked about improving “the science of delivery”-which, to one panelist’s mind, presumes an external expert coming in to save the day.)

In the global context, the debate is conducted across national lines. “Experts” from the global North are chastised for not tapping local knowledge or building local capacity in the global South. In the United States, the borders separating the actors in a parallel debate are not as sharply demarcated, and therefore not as contentious or fraught-yet. But they will be, particularly with the rise of the accountability class.

Shouldn’t we all join the accountability class, and do a better job holding ourselves and our institutions accountable for responsiveness to communities and mission effectiveness?

Some thoughts emerged from Saturday’s session about how to get there. Jacob Harold, the new CEO of Guidestar, pointed out in his talk that “society gathers data faster than it gathers information, faster than it gathers knowledge, faster than it gathers wisdom.” If accountability creates pressure, it should be the pressure to get to wisdom urgently. And guess what? Including the voices of those directly affected by the work is a great way to get there. Adele Simmons, former head of the MacArthur Foundation, pointed out how its trustees quickly revised their assumptions about what success looks like after doing a series of site visits to villages where the foundation’s grantees were working. Sometimes making that connection directly can accelerate the development of wisdom.

How do you hold yourself accountable for your mission?

Chris Cardona is associate director of philanthropy at TCC Group.

The Council’s important 2013 impact investing initiative is enriching this year’s Annual Conference agenda. Through sessions on Monday, April 8, attendees will have a chance to hear about innovative ways foundations are making investments that intend to produce social and financial returns.

The day kicks off with a breakfast plenary on food justice. With virtual remarks from His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales, the session frames food justice in terms of food insecurity, obesity, malnourishment, and unsustainable industrialized food production, offering impact investing in healthy and sustainable food systems as part of the solution.

For those interested in a session with more of a focus on impact investing, plan to attend the concurrent lunch plenary, “The Returns of Impact Investing,” which will feature leaders of several of the most experienced impact investing organizations, including the Global Impact Investing Network, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Calvert Foundation, and UpLift Solutions. Through TED-style talks, these leaders will offer perspectives on how impact investing can help foundations better achieve mission, leverage private capital, and improve communities, and then answer any questions you may have.

Several sessions on Monday afternoon will also delve into the benefits of impact investing. At 2:30 p.m., attend, “Job Creation: Grantmaking and Investing in Entrepreneurship, Small Business, and Economic Development.” Building on Clara Miller’s timely piece, “The World Has Changed and So Must We,” the session looks at how philanthropy is devising sectoral and place-based strategies to stimulate job creation, combining grants and impact investing, and partnering with conventional investors to scale solutions.

Then, at 4:30 p.m., finish the afternoon at “Impact Investing: Learn, Share, Network,” which will feature speed networking and opportunities to engage in dynamic table conversations. Whether your foundation is considering impact investing, or expanding an already active program, these sessions promise current insights and opportunities to build a network for continuous learning in the months and years ahead.  Follow the conference hashtag, #COF13, for takeaways from these live events and be sure to add your own comments.

Lisa Richter is a principal at GPS Capital Partners.

As a sector, the foundation community must have an enormously high IQ. If you take a quick look at the vitae of staff members of just about any foundation, you’ll find degrees in multiple fields—sometimes attached to just one individual. I know at our foundation most program associates have at least one master’s degree.

But when it comes to sharing ideas and convincing others outside the field? Not so smart there.

Despite the fact that everyone thinks they “get it,” most communications efforts are tacked onto projects, midway through or toward the end when everyone’s signed off and ready to share results. And frequently because of this approach, the best opportunities are overlooked and lost. Sometimes the message that would be most meaningful to make the argument never gets discovered. Sometimes the talking points get written before we know the language the audience speaks. And sometimes we are actually not talking to the most important audience—the one that has the power to make real change happen.

That’s why I was thrilled to serve as one of the judges for this year’s Wilmer Shields Rich Award. I was eager to see if there were some foundations that actually knew how powerful an integrated communications effort could be. I was hopeful that there would be at least one example of the kind of seamless communications work that can and should be woven into a foundation’s program as early as inception.

And the good news is, there ARE foundations that work this way. In fact, the panel of judges selected four. The winners, announced this week, include The California Endowment, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

In the application from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the author wrote:

It’s not entirely accurate to say that we’ve “integrated” communications into this work. Our communications staff members were and are critical to shaping and sustaining this initiative…This is one initiative where the line between communications and programs has become completely blurred—and this blurring of boundaries has become a model for our other work.

What a joy to read and what a goal to aspire to! Here’s hoping that “the line between communications and programs has become completely blurred” will be a mantra that stirs the soul of every program officer and foundation president! Building the case begins now.

Debra Rubino is the director of strategic communications at the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.

At the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF), we aspire to “go viral.” Whether this sounds good to you may depend on your generation—or how recently you have battled a cold. I will put your mind at ease by saying that we aim to share messages rather than multiply germs. Similar to powerful examples such as the Arab Spring, and less powerful but more fun examples, like the viral video of a kid in a car seat dancing, we strive to engage people through communications. By doing so, we believe we can help our foundation fulfill its value around transparency and reach its mission. We believe that communications of any kind­—from convenings, newletters, and annual reports, to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—can help philanthropy achieve the outcomes it seeks.

So why should foundations communicate? Below are three reasons that drive WRF and that we believe should drive philanthropy to prioritize communications as a strategy to effect change.

BIG MISSION, SMALL STAFF: Communication is Engagement

WRF has a big mission—to improve the lives of Arkansans—and a small staff. That said, there are dozens of foundation grantees, hundreds of state policymakers, thousands of community and business leaders, and three million Arkansas residents. If we are to achieve our mission, we must reach beyond the doors of the foundation, and with a clear vision, engage others in taking the actions necessary to improve Arkansas for all of its residents.

CHOIR IS STRONGER THAN A SOLO: Communication is Common Language

Like a soprano sings best from the high end of the scale, WRF speaks most authentically from the foundation perspective. A soprano solo is lovely, but to add richness, depth, and volume to the music, a choir adds the voices of altos, tenors, and basses. When adding new voices, the notes are not uniform for all singers, but the chorus is the same. For WRF, adding new voices can provide new perspectives and amplify our messages around what it takes to move the needle in Arkansas.

LIVE AND LEARN: Communication is Dialogue

It is easy to approach communications as a one-way street, with a foundation developing a message and hoping that those we communicate with will receive it. It is far more effective, however, to undertake two-way communications. WRF approaches communications as a dialogue, and therefore has the opportunity to learn and grow based on what its partners and the public communicate back.

We invite other foundations to join us in “going viral.” And of course, we should take this opportunity to encourage you to help us become a little more viral ourselves. You can find us at, and we encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Regan Gruber Moffitt is senior associate for public policy at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. The organization is one of four recipients of the 2013 Wilmer Shields Rich Awards for Excellence in Communicationsa partnership of the Council on Foundations and The Communications Network.

Storytelling is at the heart of all emotions. Think about it. You hear a song, the lyrics move you, you have an emotional reaction. You see a sad movie, you may cry. It’s no different with brands that vie for emotional connections with their consumers. And nonprofits simply must use communications—storytelling—as a very important tactic to steward current donors and secure new funders.

Communications can now be in the form of almost anything—a blog, a video, a text, an e-mail, a printed piece, a “pin,” a “liked” comment, a tweet. The challenge is finding an audience in each of those outlets that will be receptive to our communications. Once the audience is found, another challenge is presented. How do we sound to them? Are we authentic? Are we engaging? We must be or we will not get a second chance to do so.

Our stories, our communications, are purposeful. We want to invoke emotion; cause a reaction in a person to do something—in our case to learn more about foster care adoption, donate to us, and ultimately adopt a child. So there really isn’t a Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption without communications. And not just from the communications team—from all of us. Each person here has an important story to tell. And every child waiting to be adopted deserves only our very best efforts.

Rita Soronen is president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The organization is one of four recipients of the 2013 Wilmer Shields Rich Awards for Excellence in Communicationsa partnership of the Council on Foundations and The Communications Network.

When people think about improving health, the first thing that comes to mind is going to the doctor’s office or the gym. For a long time, public health experts correlated community health with medical settings and individual choices. But years of research, grantmaking, and listening to our community partners has given us greater clarity on how and where health happens. Research tells us that our health largely depends on where we live, learn, work, and play.

Place matters when it comes to health, life expectancy, and quality of life. That’s why people in one neighborhood can live an average of 16 years longer than those in another neighborhood just 12 miles away. If you live in a disinvested, low-income community, you are more likely to live sicker—and die younger—than someone who lives in a neighborhood with a grocery store, safe parks, and good schools.

Building healthier communities requires nothing less than a shift in awareness. The California Endowment recognizes the importance of communications in effecting social norms change, which is why we launched our “Health Happens Here” campaign. It supports our 10-year Building Healthy Communities plan to highlight how health happens in schools, in neighborhoods, and with prevention. Both traditional and new media are intimately integrated in our work to raise awareness that staying healthy requires more than doctors and diets—our surroundings affect how long and how well we live.

But many decisions about our neighborhoods and schools are made by school administrators, city planners, and local, county, and state policymakers. It’s up to all of us to hold them accountable and to demand that they develop policies that support health. By raising awareness among decision makers about where health happens, The California Endowment is helping to build a healthier—and stronger—California.

Robert K. Ross is president and CEO of The California Endowment. The organization is one of four recipients of the 2013 Wilmer Shields Rich Awards for Excellence in Communicationsa partnership of the Council on Foundations and The Communications Network.

When one sits in an office every day, as I do, under the photo of a great, visionary leader such as Andrew Carnegie, it is impossible not to wonder how to do justice to that individual. It requires a great deal of discipline, drive, and action to live up to Mr. Carnegie’s legacy, because when you are in the presence of Andrew Carnegie, you are in the presence of history.

The challenges are constant but the opportunities are many, because his legacy is not a burden—it is a constant inspiration that one is always aspiring to realize. After all, having been entrusted with carrying out the mission that this extraordinary man gave us, which is nothing less than “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding,” one has to ponder how to reconceptualize that historical mission to meet contemporary needs.

Among the most important issues a current-day philanthropic leader has to grapple with is how to become the instrument of others, including not only the founder of one’s institution but also colleagues with whom one collaborates in order to advance a shared agenda. This requires belief in the institutional mission and genuine passion for that mission, but also transparency in all activities related to the mission along with continuing critical analysis of results. It requires that one put ego aside while also understanding that doing so does not diminish the quality of one’s leadership. Indeed, it holds out the promise of enhancing that leadership while at the helm of an institution that must constantly evolve as times change.

Andrew Carnegie, in particular, understood that the Corporation would have to adjust its work to meet new challenges. Hence, in the letter of gift with which he endowed our foundation with the bulk of his fortune, Mr. Carnegie wrote that since “conditions upon the [earth] inevitably change,” he wished his trustees to use their judgment to change policies or causes in whatever way would best advance the welfare of society.

What I have outlined above are ideals that are not easy to live up to, but one must certainly try. It helps to know the history of the foundation one leads and both its successes and failures. Having the self-confidence to analyze failures is critically important, because much can be learned about how to take the right path from going down the wrong one from time to time. Effective leadership also requires an understanding that leaders can always hire managers—as Andrew Carnegie did—but managers normally do not hire leaders. Always bearing this context in mind provides continuity of mission. It also strengthens what Andrew Carnegie saw as a great chain of humanity that has the responsibility to pass on knowledge and wisdom from one generation to another.

As John Gardner, another remarkable man—and incidentally, a former president of Carnegie Corporation—once said, when trying to solve the problems confronting our nation, its people, and even of men and women around the world, it is important to be both a critical lover and a loving critic. The only crime is indifference. The opposite of indifference is engaged leadership. For the field of philanthropy, leadership that is rooted in humility but has the confidence to envision a better future for all is the most important mission any individual can aspire to.

Vartan Gregorian is president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Service Award from the Council on Foundations.

One of the occupational requirements that comes with running a network focused on demonstrating the power of smart communications to help foundations and nonprofits improve people’s lives is to be prepared to answer the frequently asked questions: Who excels in using communications to further their missions or programs? Where can I find great examples of strategic communications?

Both questions got a little easier to answer because now I don’t have to preface my comments by saying, “in my opinion.”

Instead, I can now point to four foundations whose communications are judged to be the best in the field. These are the winners of the 2013 Wilmer Shields Rich Awards, a partnership between the Council on Foundations and The Communications Network, to honor foundations that integrate strategic communications into their operations to achieve greater impact and effectiveness.

According to the program’s judges, the four foundations that made the most compelling case that their communications are contributing to organizational and program outcomes are:

Winning a Wilmer Shields Rich Award has always carried prestige. But this year’s award winners had to meet a different set of requirements. In past years, the program honored foundations and corporate giving programs for exemplary communications products—annual reports, newsletters, and more recently, websites. This year, applicants had to demonstrate how they were achieving results that otherwise would not have been possible had they not integrated communications into their work.

Each of this year’s entrants offered a different rationale for why strategic communications is key to their organization’s work. However, the Greater New Orleans Foundation probably summed it up best with this statement:

“Our communications work is not something we set apart from our programmatic work; our communications staff members are not there to dutifully ‘report’ on what our program officers are doing. They’re there to co-create our initiatives with our program and other staff.”

That’s a powerful statement and one that we hope becomes the norm for how foundations approach their work. While foundations have relied on communications for different purposes over the years, this year’s Wilmer Shields Rich winners show that those integrating communications into their core work have a great story to tell about what their organizations are accomplishing.

Congratulations to this year’s winners.

Bruce Trachtenberg is the executive director of The Communications Network and chair of the Wilmer Shields Rich Excellence in Communications Awards Selection Task Force.

Darren Sandow Risk + Trust = Progress

By: Darren Sandow, In: 2013 Annual Conference| Philanthropy

1 Apr 2013

Two years ago a new Republican administration came into power on Long Island and quickly moved to dissolve a trusted 40-year-old youth board and fold its remnants into a new, multi-issue, countywide department. The nonprofit sector, along with Democratic legislators, tried to convince the administration not to take this course of action but failed. Concerned, we approached our youth funding colleagues to request a meeting with the administration to discuss alternatives. Only two out of 15 agreed to sign the letter with us. Asking for a meeting was a wakeup call.

If we, who have nothing to lose, are afraid to work with or ask tough questions of our government, how can we expect our grantees or their constituents to do so?  After all, they have everything to lose.

Fortunately, our donor and board president, Amy Hagedorn, has never shied away from using her community clout, family name or personal resources to fight for the issues about which she and the staff of the Hagedorn Foundation are passionate: immigration; civic engagement; and family, children, and youth. She personally signed the letter on behalf of the foundation.

The administration did indeed meet with us, negotiated with us, and merged the youth board into the bigger department but preserved what we all agreed was its core. As a condition of our support for this merger, the county agreed to get the new department evaluated to see how it could better administer and provide services. Based on that successful collaborative, the nonprofit sector, the county, and the philanthropic community formed a joint task force to improve the contracting and claims reimbursement process for every area in which the county supports the nonprofit sector.

Were the risks worth it?  Absolutely. Has this initiative been a complete success?  No. We have hit many significant speed bumps and potholes along the way but we continue to work through the obstacles as a community, not through independent fiefdoms. Does every foundation have a donor and board that are willing to let staff take these risks?  Unfortunately, no. Of the 15 staff we originally asked to sign onto our letter, all would have done so if their institutions had allowed them—which would have added significant power to our earlier intervention and might have helped us avoid many bumps along the way.

Darren Sandow is executive director of the Hagedorn Foundation and the recipient of the 2013 Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking from the Council on Foundations.

Florida foundations made their voices heard in Washington this week. Florida Philanthropic Network led a team of 12 Florida grantmakers for visits with Florida’s representatives and senators as part of the annual Foundations on the Hill event on March 19-20, 2013. The event was co-sponsored by the Council on Foundations, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Alliance for Charitable Reform. We blanketed the Hill, making contact with all 29 members of Florida’s congressional delegation and their staffs, to stress to our legislative leaders the important role that philanthropy plays in our state.

During the Washington visits we discussed the importance of preserving the charitable deduction. We explained that a cap or limit to the charitable deduction would cost billions of dollars each year in contributions that help address the critical needs of our communities. We talked about how the charitable deduction is unique among all tax benefits because it’s the only one that encourages people to give away a portion of their income for something that benefits others – not themselves.

We also dispelled any misperceptions about the charitable deduction being a “loophole for the wealthy.” In fact, 52% of Floridians who used the charitable deduction in 2010 had an annual income of less than $75,000; one-third had incomes below $50,000. And the charities who rely on the generosity of donors at all income levels serve people who are among the neediest in our communities.

We were pleased to hear broad support for philanthropy and the charitable deduction throughout Florida’s congressional delegation – on both sides of the aisle.

Florida grantmakers and FPN staff involved in this year’s Foundations on the Hill event were:

  • Bridget Baratta, CEO, Martin County Community Foundation.
  • David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network.
  • Kiara Boone, Fellow, Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
  • Gineen Bresso, Director of Special Projects, The Wasie Foundation.
  • Chris Crothers, Program Officer, Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
  • Debra Jacobs, President and CEO, The Patterson Foundation.
  • Jen Klaassens, Vice President of Programs, Florida, The Wasie Foundation.
  • Rebecca Nicholson, Director of Special Projects, The Wasie Foundation.
  • Maggie Osborn, Vice President, Florida Philanthropic Network.
  • Mark Pritchett, Senior Vice President, Community Investment, Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
  • Upendo Shabazz-Phillips, Regional Vice President, Allegany Franciscan Ministries.
  • Javier Alberto Soto, President & CEO, The Miami Foundation.

I’d like to thank all of the Florida foundation representatives who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in the 2013 Foundations on the Hill event. The stories they told about the critical needs they address across the state helped our congressional representatives understand the impact of philanthropy in Florida.

Foundations on the Hill is the one time each year when the philanthropy sector speaks with a single, powerful voice in Washington about the importance of philanthropy to our communities. The visits to Capitol Hill are part of FPN’s ongoing public policy work throughout the year to develop strong relationships with legislators and other key policymakers in order to protect, promote and strengthen philanthropy as it works to meet Florida’s critical community needs.

David Biemesderfer, president & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network. This post originally appeared on The Florida Philanthropy blog.

I recently received a call from a researcher on a new project. As I understood it, a prominent U.S. foundation had asked them to study how domestic donors deal with gender issues. They were to identify funders with a specific commitment to the gender lens in their funding priorities, and then document how these funders tracked the implementation of the gender analysis through grantmaking and programs.

It sounded like a fascinating project, but one on which I could not shed much light. The truth was, the funders I knew that had a strong, explicit focus on gender—whether that meant disparate impacts on women and families or challenging rigid norms of masculinity and femininity—were almost all international or at least international-facing.

Even a decade ago, Women & Philanthropy in “The Case for Better Philanthropy: The Future of Funding for Women and Girls” noted: “For the better part of the last three decades, international aid agencies have made a concerted effort to use gender in their grantmaking and loan strategies…based on numbers that tell them how effective their grants are.

Indeed, a lot of the energy for promoting the gender lens seems to be coming from or strongly linked to international donors. For instance, consider GrantCraft (which has a European and U.S. focus) and its guide, “Grantmaking with a Gender Lens.” or Mama Cash’s excellent new guide, “Funding for Inclusion: Women and Girls in the Equation.”

Sometimes the split seems very visible. For instance, I was excited to see that the 2013 International Conference on AIDS scheduled an evening panel discussion on gender norms and HIV. However, it turned out to consist of almost entirely international-facing players like PEPFAR, USAID, UNAIDS, Sonke Gender Justice (South Africa), and Promundo (Brazil).

Many of the U.S. program officers I know who are doing innovative grantmaking that engages a strong gender analysis are doing it outside of funding guidelines, often because of deep personal belief in an intersectional model that connects gender and race and class. They understand that when you look at the social determinants of health and wellness, especially in at-risk communities, gender norms and ideals must be part of the mix.

Yet as Loren Harris at Frontline Solutions has noted, foundation staff are often already challenged introducing evidence of racial inequities to justify grantmaking investments: When it comes to Black or Latino communities, promoting an intersectional analysis that simultaneously addresses race, sex, possibly low-income status, and gender may simply seem too daunting.

I suspect one reason international folks find it easier to address gender is that many of them fund in developing countries from a human rights model. It’s almost impossible to try to improve conditions in communities where a woman can’t own property, walk unescorted down the street, select her own husband, or expect to be his sole spouse unless you address cultural codes of masculinity and femininity along with age, race, socio-economic status, and so on. And the human rights model provides an excellent framework for doing just that.

However, things are starting to change. A group of forward-leaning donors are looking for ways to take what has been learned internationally and apply it to domestic philanthropy and reenergizing the gender framework.

As “The Case for Better Philanthropy” noted in 2004, some of these “funders are seeking to escape the restrictions of single-issue grant programs…that do not adequately address the complexity of how people actually live and the ways various forms of oppression intersect for people in marginalized communities.”

As the passion for less fragmented and more intersectional grantmaking grows, we may be beginning to see a deeper embrace of gender transformative philanthropy by domestic donors.

Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild.

This nation has a proud history of journalism, long tied most closely to newspapers. But the newspaper industry, as we know, has experienced a severe decline in recent years. The signs of this decline were evident to many of us in my hometown of Detroit back in 1987, when our two highly competitive newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, announced the formation of a joint operating agreement (JOA). This allowed the two newspapers to combine their business operation, while keeping their editorial staffs separate. Despite reassurances from both news organizations that robust local news coverage would continue, it was pretty clear that change was in the air for the news business, and it remained to be seen how well the local community would be served.

Since then, the emergence of digital technology has complicated the landscape for news organizations. While there is great opportunity for innovation in news gathering and dissemination, not to mention the possibility for new nonprofit news enterprises, there are also obstacles posed by outdated regulations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a report in 2011 entitled, “The Information Needs of Communities: The changing media landscape in a broadband age.” Pointing to the severe cutbacks in newsrooms across the country, the report noted that local communities are losing out on the kind of accountability reporting necessary to make informed decisions on local issues. Nonprofit media, the report suggested, could help address this concern.

To further explore the current state of nonprofit media, The Knight Foundation and the Council on Foundations joined forces to create a working group tasked to dig into regulatory obstacles. I was honored to participate on this working group and am pleased that our report, “The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public,” is being released on March 4th.

The Internal Revenue Service gets top billing here because the agency is using outdated regulatory approaches in determining tax exemption eligibility for nonprofit news organizations. While some nonprofits like MinnPost have been able to obtain nonprofit status, too many others have been waiting up to three years for the IRS to make a determination. Apparently the IRS does not consider journalism to be educational, an attribute key to tax exemption. Moreover, the IRS looks at operations rather than governance to see if a nonprofit news organization qualifies for tax exemption. As the working group report notes, in today’s technological environment, media distribution is identical, whether the news outlet is a newspaper, magazine, television, radio, public or private. Governance, the other hand, dictates who benefits from the enterprise – public or private interests.

The report also notes that the IRS has indicated to a number of nonprofit news applicants that their proposed revenue streams (subscriptions, ads and foundation funding) are problematic in that they resemble commercial business models. They would be better off, according to the IRS, relying solely on foundation grants for revenue. Meanwhile, the message from the philanthropic sector to the nonprofit news organizations is quite the opposite – the more diversified your fund streams, the greater chances for sustainability.

The working group report has a number of recommendations for the IRS to consider in making tax exemption determinations for nonprofit news organizations. Rigorous standards for tax exemption must be upheld, but the standards must align with intention, rather than appearance. They should also take into account new ways of doing business with 21st Century technology.

Meanwhile, back in Detroit, the JOA is still in effect and both local newspapers have now cut back home delivery. Both are much thinner than I remember them to be, but local news coverage is getting a boost. The Free Press entered a partnership in 2009 with the CBS owned and operated WWJ-TV, Channel 62 to produce a morning news program, bringing locally-produced news to the station in a long time.

Cecilia Garcia is the executive director of the Benton Foundation. This article first appeared on the Benton Foundation blog. © Benton Foundation

Over the past several years, no strategy for change has captured the imagination of philanthropy more than impact investing. In the United States and even more so in emerging markets, people and institutions with financial means are deploying those resources in new and sometimes innovative ways. Right or wrong, some of the newer players are convinced that donations alone are not the solution to our world’s challenges. Indeed, some have considered structuring new entities that leapfrog over more traditional philanthropic strategies. Even tried and true grantmaking, the backbone of American philanthropy for more than a century, has gotten the cold shoulder from some of these new players.

Just what is meant by “impact investing”? As my colleague Laura Tomasko has written, impact investing, simply speaking, is investment intended to produce both financial and social returns. Put another way by the Global Impact Investing Network,

Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate multiple bottom lines—social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments… target a range of returns from below market to market rate, depending upon the circumstances.

I am extremely excited that I’ll have a chance to deepen my understanding of impact investing next month during an inaugural Impact Investing Programme offered by Said Business School at Oxford University. It is being developed by trusted colleagues at Oxford who played a key role in developing the Council’s signature global philanthropy training program, the Global Grantmaking Institute.

Oxford Associate Fellow Gayle Peterson and her colleagues, Dr. Keith Grint and Dr. Pegram Harrison, have played an important role in helping Council members wrap their heads around wicked problems, deliberate leadership, and other tools that bolster philanthropy’s chances to make lasting change. These and other themes will be woven into a broader conversation on best impact investment practices to maximize social, environmental, and financial results. Playing an important role in the program, in addition to Oxford’s world-class faculty, are several U.S. foundations that have deep experience in the impact investing sector, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.

I would like to invite Council members to join me at this world-class program, April 13–16, following the Skoll World Forum. You will be joining colleagues from a range of countries, including Australia, China, France, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

This promises to be a remarkable learning experience. Space is limited, but I encourage you to attend and hope to see you there! For more information, please contact or (+44(0)1865 422737).

John Harvey is managing director of global philanthropy at the Council on Foundations.

Organizations working to make the world a better place have strong ambitions. They want to reduce gun violence in the wake of Sandy Hook, get Americans off the couch and active, and keep children safe from climate change. These groups need to wield influence to succeed—not in a Machiavellian way but in a public interest way. Yet often, they can’t articulate exactly how this influence will happen. It is a missing link in their plans to create change. When there is no clear idea for how influence will happen, it often doesn’t. Social change remains elusive.

Charting influence is a tricky proposition. It is made trickier when organizations don’t approach planning with a clear idea of what the possibilities are for cultivating and using influence effectively. Rather than clarity, they have blind spots in their change strategies and these blind spots can undermine even the most worthy campaigns. Spitfire Strategies has developed a short guide to help nonprofits and foundations navigate a trail of influence by identifying—and eliminating—blind spots before they sabotage change strategies.

First order of business is to figure out how blind spots sneak into change strategies. Here are some top culprits:

  1. THE FAST AND FURIOUS. Groups start fast and don’t do their homework. They don’t completely think through the influence question, assuming they can safely figure it out as they go along or “build the plane while flying it.” The consequence of this approach is that these groups fail to take the time to understand upfront how decisions will get made, and while they may get lucky, their efforts are inefficient and not as strong as they could be.
  2. READY, FIRE, AIM. This is a close cousin to those in the fast and furious category. Here, groups handicap their efforts by making strategic decisions out of order. For example, some groups form a coalition before they identify which decision makers they need to influence or on what grounds they will make their case. Rather than crafting a strategy based on the interests and passions of the decision maker and then picking the strongest partners to bring that strategy to life, they are stuck developing an approach based on the assets and self-interest of the partners already assembled.
  3. THE UPSIDERS. This crew sees only the upside and approaches influence with rose-colored glasses. They don’t look at who stands to lose if their campaign is successful. The Upsiders don’t think about who is working against their effort, publicly or behind the scenes. The consequence? By not seeing any downsides, the group leaves itself vulnerable to opponents it doesn’t even realize it has.
  4. THE OVERESTIMATORS. These folks overestimate a decision maker’s willingness to step out on a difficult issue. They overestimate what they have to work with, such as relationships or credibility. They overestimate the simplicity of influence and as a consequence underestimate the difficulty of tasks necessary for their proposal to get traction. They never stop to ask: “If this is such a no brainer, why hasn’t it happened yet?”
  5. THE NARROW FIELD OF DREAMERS. These groups lack objectivity. They pick and choose which facts support the idea that influence is possible, and they dismiss any evidence to the contrary. Buoyed by selective facts and a perceived urgency that may or may not exist, these groups end up with an effort based on fantasy rather than reality.
  6. THE GUT REACTORS. These organizations think the decision will get made for certain reasons (such as moral imperative) when, actually, it will be based on something entirely different (such as job creation). They lament, “Why do people act against their own self-interest?” The truth is that the people in question are acting in their own interest—it’s just not the interest the group thought it would be. If their gut is wrong, these groups will end up on the sideline of an important debate rather than front and center.
  7. THE NO GPS CREW. Some efforts just get lost. Pick any mix of the culprits above, and you’ll find them present and accounted for here. The group picked the wrong decision at the wrong time, misjudged how complicated it would get, or chose the wrong grounds for arguing its case. Instead of stopping, taking stock, and trying a new direction, they keep plugging away. At best, these efforts are futile and waste valuable resources. At worst, they end up alienating the very partners, champions, and potential supporters that they will ultimately need to succeed.

Kristen Grimm is founder of Spitfire Strategies, a public interest strategy firm that helps nonprofits and foundations raise their voices to create positive social change. This blog originally appeared on Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Over the last several decades, accountability reporting, especially at the local level, has contracted dramatically, with potentially grave consequences for communities, government responsiveness, and democracy. Nonprofit media has the potential to partly fill this vacuum but faces obstacles as a result of outdated IRS rules.

A report by the Nonprofit Media Working Group (NMWG) of the Council on Foundations, The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public,” released today, makes specific recommendations to the IRS that maintain essential distinctions between for-profit and nonprofit media but remove obstacles to the types of innovation that are needed to fill the gaps in nonprofit news, especially accountability journalism.

The report highlights five key problems with the current IRS approach:

1.  Applications for tax-exempt status are processed inconsistently and take too long.

Numerous reports indicate that when communities need tax-exempt media, the process for application review and approval has become inconsistent, in some cases taking as long as three years.

2.  The IRS approach appears to undervalue journalism.

The IRS has taken the position in several cases that journalism is not educational. This position is inconsistent with the applicable federal tax regulations, which define “educational” as “the instruction of the public on subjects useful to the individual and beneficial to the community.”

3.  The IRS approach appears to inhibit the long-term sustainability of tax-exempt media organizations.

Since the 1960s, the IRS has required that “the manner in which the distribution (of nonprofit media) is accomplished must be distinguishable from ordinary commercial publishing practices.” Yet, on the Internet, media distribution is identical.

4.  Confusion may be inhibiting nonprofit entrepreneurs trying to address the information needs of communities.

The IRS focus on similarity in business practices between nonprofit and for-profit media has led to confusion, even among those with tax-exempt status, about what they can and cannot do.

5.  The IRS approach does not sufficiently recognize the changing nature of digital media.

The digital age revolutionized media. Now, anyone with a personal computer can publish through various platforms, from websites to social media, in much the same way as for-profit media.

The Nonprofit Media Working Group Recommendations:

Recognizing that tax-exempt media entities are different from commercial entities, and should be held to rigorous standards in order to receive the tremendous benefit of being tax exempt, the group makes the following recommendations to the IRS:

  • The IRS methodology for analyzing whether a media organization qualifies for exemption should not take into account irrelevant operational similarities to for-profits.
  • The IRS should focus on whether the media organization is engaged primarily in educational activities that provide a community benefit, as opposed to advancing private interests, and whether it is organized and managed as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.
  • News and journalism do count as “educational” under the tax-exempt rules.
  • The IRS should maintain the key structural requirements for being a tax-exempt media organization that properly distinguish it from a commercial enterprise, such as: it cannot have shareholders or investors, it must have a governing board that is independent of private interests, and it cannot endorse candidates or lobby lawmakers.

To comment on the report, email NMWG was convened by the Council on Foundations utilizing a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Steven Waldman is chair of the Nonprofit Media Working Group, a journalist, and Former Senior Advisor to the FCC Chairman. For more information on this topic, read his op-ed in USA Today.

I recently gave a presentation and created an infographic that shared what I learned about conducting a financial analysis of a nonprofit. I passed out copies of the infographic for those that couldn’t make the initial presentation, but realized they could have benefited from more than what was shared on the page. Was there a way to augment the printed image without disrupting the design? 

Ideally, I was looking for something that would provide additional content, perhaps with the use of a smartphone. Having previous experience with augmented reality, I thought this might be an ideal solution. I went searching for a free and uncomplicated tool that I could use on my phone and found an app called Aurasma, which allows an image to be augmented by adding a video or another overlay once the trigger image is scanned (introduction). I’ve provided four ideas below to use augmented reality to innovate your organization’s current communication strategies: 

1.    Board materials. For those who compile vast amounts of information for the board, think about using augmented reality to reduce paper usage and provide immediate access to supplementary content.

2.    Annual reports. Consider using augmented reality to tag images in the report with video or infographics to get your point across.

3.    Project reports and summaries. Consider using augmented reality to make these documents innovative enough so that they don’t gather dust on a shelf. In addition, you can provide easy access to lessons learned from previous work that can improve grant work going forward.

4.    Conferences. Use Aurasma to add additional information to the display board for conference sessions. As an example, attendees can use their smartphones to scan a session display board to learn more about the background of presenters. 

If you would like to see a video of this technology in action, check out my phone’s screen recording. What you’ll see is the phone scanning a photo that serves as a trigger image. Within a few seconds, you’ll see an infographic that is superimposed on the photo.  

In conclusion, it would be interesting to see foundations take advantage of today’s smartphone capabilities. If you want to learn more about augmented reality and how it is currently being used, contact your foundation librarian.

Sophia Guevara is the chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries affinity group


This is post is part of an ongoing impact investing series on RE: Philanthropy.

In recent years, I have championed the potential of impact investing to unlock new forms and sources of capital for the social sector. But financial capital is just one piece of the puzzle. Through my work at the Rockefeller Foundation and more recently at Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), I have come to see that no single organization, idea, or type of capital is a cure-all for social issues.

Future success will be predicated on combining all of the resources willing and able to tackle social woes. This will bring together unlikely partners, approaches, and sources of money that share the common goal of a more just and vibrant world.

I am excited to share an excerpt from a brief piece published recently in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), which describes the concept of Complete Capital, Nonprofit Finance Fund’s integrated approach to addressing social problems. Here at NFF, we are working with foundations, government, and other partners to address social challenges using our Complete Capital framework. The article describes some of the inspiration for Complete Capital and makes the case for bringing it to a large enough scale to make measurable and consequential improvements in the world.

Although we all would like to avoid more stories of economic doom and gloom, those of us who work with social service agencies and their clients are witnessing a sector in crisis. In the United States, the withdrawal of federal stimulus funding is echoing through the social spending system, shrinking budgets as needs grow. Demand for services rose 20 percent again last year, while for many essential organizations government funding failed to meet demand and private funding failed to fill the gap, according to a 2012 state of the sector survey from Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). A similar story is playing out around the globe. We cannot afford to hunker down and wait for economic relief that may be many years away.

So what are we going to do? As the co-author of the recent book Impact Investing and the CEO of an organization (NFF) that has been lending to nonprofits for 32 years, I certainly believe that tapping into the resources and expertise of for-profit investment is part of the answer. The rise of the impact investment movement is poised to unlock substantial new capital for social purpose. Innovative nonprofits are already rethinking the way they do business and are going to heroic lengths to extract maximum impact from every dollar. And increasingly, we have the data and knowledge we need to tackle social ills.

But the ultimate contribution of impact investing, and similar innovations, will not come in the form of interesting investments or channeling grant money more efficiently. Instead, it will come by addressing two fundamental challenges of our moment: How will developed countries sustain a safety net in the wake of macroeconomic and demographic pressures? And how will developing countries ensure that economic growth is more equitably shared?

To answer those questions requires us to reframe how we work….Over 32 years of making Impact Investments and advising thousands of organizations through our advisory work, we have come to see the broad set of perspectives and capabilities required to address complex social challenges. We believe that effective approaches will mobilize four types of capital:

Financial capital that both pays for expanded project delivery (such as new ambulances or shelter beds) and builds healthy and sustainable organizations. The combination of grants and investments will differ for each intervention, but the Complete Capital approach will bring sufficient resources to sustain operations, change business models, and facilitate growth.

Intellectual capital that draws on rapidly expanding evidence about what works and what does not at the business model and systems level.

Human capital that translates bold ideas into action. More than just a capable management team and board, human capital is the leadership ecosystem of outside advisors, volunteers, and clients that organizations need to thrive in challenging environments.

Social capital that enables people and organizations unused to working together to collaborate effectively. We will need to reposition government, private funders, organization leaders, and their clients in new relationships. Trust and creativity will be essential for social capital formation, supporting and pushing us to confront our collective challenges and embrace innovative solutions…..

To read the full article, visit SSIR here.

Antony Bugg-Levine is CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund.

This is the first post in an ongoing impact investing series on RE: Philanthropy.

The new vision for the Council on Foundations, as President and CEO Vikki Spruill outlined in her blog post “Relevance + Network + Speed = Impact,” describes exactly how and why the Council is poised to support foundations interested in impact investing.

Impact investing, which we define as investments that intend to produce both financial and social returns, is a tool—like grants, convening, and advocacy—that foundations can use to meet the needs of the communities they serve. While foundations and other investors have made impact investments for decades, many recognize a recent surge of interest. As Vikki wrote, the new Council is a point of connection,  and we will flex our connector muscle and step into the conversation.

Expect to see the Council talking to members to learn more about how and why they are making impact investments. Take a minute to fill out this simple, four-question survey to let us know what your foundation is thinking about impact investing.

Expect the Council to organize provocative conversations that build relationships and break down barriers of communication between foundation investors and intermediaries. Through regional meetings this year, the Council will convene foundations, Community Development Financial Institutions, banks, and other actors that  are willing to have honest conversations about what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to making impact investments together.

Expect the Council to aggregate resources that demystify the process of impact investing. Already, we have formed a collaborative focused on enabling community foundations to participate through donor advised funds, discretionary assets, or both. We are building relationships with thought leaders and intermediaries to hear what they have to say, and connecting those ideas and resources back to our membership.

This blog post is the first in an ongoing impact investing series on RE: Philanthropy. The goal of this series is to provide an online forum for thoughtful commentary and discussion about the impact investing world as it relates to foundations. If you have an idea that you would like to submit for the blog series, let me know. The next blog post will explore why impact investing alone is not sufficient for creating change.

Many have hypothesized that 2013 will be a big year for impact investing. Whether or not that proves to be the case, we are here to connect you to the impact investing knowledge, leaders, and organizations your foundation needs for success.

Laura Tomasko is curating a conversation about impact investing at the Council on Foundations. Connect with her by e-mail and on Twitter @lauratomasko.

As a part of the staff of CF Insights, I have had the pleasure to work with the community foundation field for almost 4 years now and still I’m amazed at the ways the field as a whole contributes to the success of individual community foundations by sharing insights, data and support. Reflecting on 2012, I have never been prouder to be part of a field that challenges itself to evolve, serve the needs in their communities, and still takes the time to contribute to the growth and development of peers.  Here are just a few highlights from 2012:

Community foundations use data to improve their business
CF Insights houses financial and operational metrics on over 500 community foundations nation-wide. I have had the joy of working with over 150 community foundations ranging in $5 Million to $2 Billion in assets helping them think about how they compare to other foundations by providing benchmarking data, connecting them with community foundation colleagues and providing technical assistance on our array of tools. I am always impressed by how nimble my colleagues are and excited to hear about how this data is useful.  Last month I spoke with two financial folks at a foundation – one of which was hired because the data we had put together with them made the case to hire a new employee. Now that’s taking action!

Community foundations embrace new knowledge and challenge their current assumptions
One quarter of the field read or heard us talk about Do More Than Grow in September or October.  This work takes a deep look at the strategic value of donor advised funds (DAFs).  DAFs are a significant part of the community foundation field accounting for over 1/2 of all grantmaking. My colleagues and I have appreciated the thoughtful feedback this piece evoked and look forward to working with the field to help realize the full potential of such a powerful grantmaking vehicle.

Community foundations learn from one another
In partnership with the Council on Foundations and the W.K Kellogg Foundation, CF Insights worked with cohorts of community foundations in New Mexico and Mississippi to help them individually and collectively discuss their role in philanthropy, their unique business models, the myriad of different choices they face.

My aspirations for 2013:
Ten years ago, FSG authored Strengthening Community Foundations:  Redefining the Opportunities, which introduced the idea of looking at a community foundation strategy and economics at a product level.  Since then, CF Insights and FSG have examined over 80 community foundation business models through Activity Based Costing Analysis.  This exercise, which allows foundations to understand key products and activities, has been regarded as “transformational.”  A tool like this helps focus conversations about “what revenues fuel our work to promote philanthropy?” to “here are the changes we need to make to align our business model with strategic priorities.”

Over the course of 2013, CF Insights is excited to share with you what we have learned from a wide range of community foundations and provide you with some insights on what is working well.  We hope to support more community foundations learning from one another in order to make themselves stronger organizations.  Let us know if you’d like to work on this challenge with us - Let’s continue to chart the course together!

Diana Esposito is a member services and program manager for CF  Insights. This  blog originally appeared on FSG’s Social Impact Blog.

The Council on Foundations’ commitment to encouraging collaboration is commendable, particularly considering the great accomplishments that alliance building has produced. Collaborative philanthropy has had a far-reaching impact on public opinion, legislation, civil rights, education, the environment, and much more. Thanks to the power of alliances, several key Millennial Development Goals are on target for 2015. For example, from 1990 to today, 2 billion more people have access to safe drinking water.

Despite encouraging historic outcomes, collaborative efforts can be fraught with wicked problems, which are challenges that do not readily lend themselves to tried-and-true solutions. I believe that potentialities can be actualized and problems considerably reduced by carefully implementing best practices. Although there is a growing body of available literature to guide us, continued rigorous research would be of inestimable value.

Collaborative efforts fail to produce desired outcomes for understandable reasons. For example, parties may differ significantly in respect to culture, norms, or vision. Organizations may fail to use effective models and processes for running meetings and establishing protocols. Failing to implement a facilitation strategy, or person, for building trust, effective communication, and clearly defined agreements can lead to lingering tension and unproductive outcomes.

Choosing to engage in simple and gradual collaboration can lessen expectations, commitments, and wicked problems, while resulting in rewarding outcomes. Consider the great value of sharing information or contributing to existing infrastructures. Strategic planning is often thought of as an intra-organizational process—and it should be. I believe it would be highly beneficial if more foundations paid closer attention to their philanthropic “ecosystem” when developing strategies. Having a basic understanding about what other players in our respective spaces are planning could impact strategies and lead to reduced replication and efficient allocations of talent, while maintaining a simple autonomous structure likely to save time and be less problematic.

History is replete with examples demonstrating the benefits of collaboration. However, complex situations provide a particularly conducive breeding ground for wicked problems. Beginning by engaging in simpler, gradual collaborative initiatives requires less time and commitments, while also allowing parties more flexibility after determining which relationships should continue to be developed. Regardless, careful planning, implementing effective models, and applying skillful facilitation provide a disciplined, collaborative framework conducive to lessening obstacles and maximizing impact.

Peter Brach is the international development advisor for the Brach Family Charitable Foundation.

The statistics are hard to ignore, and you may already be familiar with many of them. In 2010, guns took the lives of more than 31,000 Americans in homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.  More than 50 percent of all suicides are committed with a firearm. Firearm injuries are the cause of death of 18 children and young adults (24 years of age and under) each day in the United States. Firearm-related deaths and injuries result in estimated medical costs of $2.3 billion each year—half of which are borne by U.S. taxpayers.

But for many of us, it took the tragedy of the mass killing of 20 first graders and six of their educators in December to open our eyes to the toll of gun violence in this country. And we are not alone. Just look at the overwhelming number of headlines, articles, and newscasts dedicated to this topic. It seems the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has had the effect of raising society’s consciousness about the drastic costs of gun violence in this country.

But awareness of these costs is not new to many of you in philanthropy, who have made a commitment to reducing gun violence. Here are just a few examples:

  • The California Wellness Foundation established its Violence Prevention Initiative in 1992 that focuses on prevention (mentoring and after-school programs), intervention (serving those who are at the highest risk of becoming a victim of violence), and re-entry (working with incarcerated young people providing counseling, job training and placement services).
  • The Joyce Foundation works with law enforcement, policymakers, and advocates to develop gun violence reduction and prevention policies that keep communities safe. They created the Fund for a Safer Future with the goal of achieving comprehensive, effective policies to reduce gun injury and death. Other donors involved in that effort are the MacArthur Foundation, the McCormick Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Crown and Goodman Family Foundations.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports Cure Violence, a national public health strategy that views violence as a learned behavior that can be prevented using disease control methods. Violence “interrupters” identify people most likely to be involved in gun violence and redirect them to make nonviolent choices.

The key to taking action is realizing that there is not one right answer, but many right answers. Philanthropy can help reduce gun violence by supporting:

  • Greater access to mental health services
  • After-school programs that provide kids with alternatives to gangs
  • High school drop-out prevention initiatives to keep kids in school
  • Public information campaigns that educate communities about the violence in their neighborhoods
  • Research on gun-related injuries and death
  • Advocacy efforts focused on gun policy changes.

All of these activities can make a difference. Don’t let the complexity of the problem paralyze you into non-action.

I know there are many of you working in this area and I want to hear from you. I hope you will contact me at and share your story.

This is a conversation in which we all need to participate.

Daria Teutonico is director of  community foundation services at the Council on Foundations

When my class (The Philanthropy Workshop West) arrives, a light snow dusts the ground and U.S. President #44, Barack Obama, has just been sworn in for a second term. As we progress through a week of presentations, spring thaws early and soft rains fall, cleansing our cynical capital and washing away our prejudices against politics. Late in the evening, late in the week when no one is watching and we’re tired of propriety, we find ourselves falling into bed with the idea of advocacy. We just want to advance our causes . . . Is that so wrong?

What happens if politics and philanthropy get into bed together? Personally, I’d never tried it. The last picket I’d pumpedback in college in Ohiosaid “Bread for the World,” and the notion of feeding the hungry didn’t seem too harshly partisan. Later, I inadvertently faced polarization head-on when, as a divinity student in global religions at Harvard during the Persian Gulf War, I prayed with my Iraqi friend Afaf for her soldier son and my soldier brother, on opposite sides of Desert Storm. We just wanted peace and unity for all.

Politics sounds like division to me, particularly in 2013 with moderates dropping out of Congress and citizens living in increasingly party-segregated zones across My Country ‘Tis of Thee. Politics seems calculated and disingenuous. Philanthropy, on the other hand, bubbles up from love of humanity. It seems emotional: compassion igniting action that causes connection. I’ve spent a career avoiding the den of Washington, D.C. … Until now.

Last year, I missed the Washington, D.C. trip. While my cohorts learned to lobby their representatives, I flew into Delhi, India and proceeded north into the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh to interview ultra-poor rural women working for a new social-enterprise dairy cooperative. These mothers in saris who never held a steady job shepherded goats and cows, tripling their family’s income while working from home. While my class learned to finance candidates’ campaigns and power-map Congressional committee chairs for their causes, I stopped for chai and crackers in the dusty courtyard of Saraswati’s one-room hut. The stories got pretty interesting when a teenager opened up about intergenerational issues and the village women got a chance to gossip about the real pros and cons of their jobs.

Frankly, I wasn’t sorry to miss D.C. I learned about cow and goat farming and how to design a value chain from livestock feed-fertilization to bulk-milk chillers. We spent long days gathering stories, photographs, and video from north India.

Next, I flew to Kolkata to write for another partner who provides adult education and healthcare for microentrepreneurs. Finally, a few of us lingered in Rajasthan, gaping at the slanting rays of sunset at the Taj Mahal and tracking Bengal tigers in Ranthambore. I snuffled through a nasty head cold and slept far too few hours, returning home three weeks later exhausted … Yet blissfully happy.

Staunchly anti-political, I’ve heard that many other philanthropists share my aversion to what TPW-West director Glen Galaich laughingly refers to as the “football-team dynamics” of partisan politics. However, of my own volition, in January-February 2013, I find myself here after all, to pick up this essential piece of education. I hover in the optimism of possibility. A session on media easily has my attention, while a workshop on policymaker advocacy makes my eyes glaze over. I look across the bed and consider this strange fellow I’ve found here.

“You need to take a risk if you want to make a difference,” says Joel Rubin of Ploughshares. CNN’s Bill Schneider, who’s covered politics for 47 years and now conducts research for Third Way, tells us, “I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, and we’ve just now entered an era of a New America” of inclusion. Hmm, I want to help usher that in. According to political advisor Justin Buell, we wield more weight than D.C. insiders: “When you are not paid to say something, your message is more powerful than a paid lobbyist,” he says.

Our small site-visit group clicks down long linoleum hallways at the Department of State, where outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses her staff upstairs while in a crowded office downstairs, we hear about her Global Partnerships Initiative on public/private partnerships. The hope at the outset of a new term begins to make us giddy in this city.

Later, a network friend and I happen to be standing at the foot of the Capitol building at twilight when we notice the white light click on in the cupola: That means Congress is in session. Inside at that very moment, Gabby Giffords makes her plea to the Senate for gun control. “You must act,” she implores them.

As the week progresses, it’s hard to ignore the reality of power possible through politics. Having just seen $6 billion spent on the 2012 presidential elections, we wonder how else those funds could be spent to advance our causes. Hearing that $1 spent on advocacy can leverage $110 in outcomes, we scratch our heads and wonder which representatives back home might take a meeting with our grantee partners.

Our group may trek home with new notions about how to advance education, human rights, conservation, arts, and media with a tool that’s closer to our reach than we imagined: “Policy,” Mike Breen of the Truman National Security Project (a nonparitsan group for preservations of peace and climate by veterans) told us, “is about the relationships we have with one another.” We are all in the business of relationships.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright takes us on a narrative tour of the world, which is “a mess” from Syria to Pakistan, Israel to Egypt, Mali to Iraq. Somehow, despite disbelief in the United Nations and insider action, she fervently endorses “not militarizing democracy, but simply offering it” through leadership and capacity building around the world achieved through public-private partnerships.

Turns out, the currency of advocacy is comprised of more than campaign cash: We all advocate with every donation, grant, and investment we make as individuals, families, and foundations. We promote causes with our time as advisors and volunteers. For me as a nonprofit storyteller, every word about a program or person points a spotlight of support on unsung heroes, around whom I want the world to rally. There’s nothing new about this courtship: I’ve been in love all along, and through various tactics, so have you. We may come away from D.C. more focused on the romance of politics and philanthropy, and maybe a little better equipped to stoke the fires of passion that will breed social justice, and soon.

Suzanne Skees is director and board chair for the Skees Family Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations. This blog first appeared on the Skees Family Foundation blog.

The study and practice of leadership has been on my mind for the past several months. Since July, I’ve been fortunate to participate in the Career Pathways Program through the Council on Foundations.

It’s a leadership program that has been designed to prepare candidates to compete for and earn positions as philanthropic leaders. The program is open to people currently employed in foundations and grantmaking institutions who are seeking to advance their careers in philanthropy. Two groups have already graduated from this intensive program, which includes in-person meetings, executive coaching and studying.

This year, I’ve been joined by:

  • Brandee Butler, program manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at Levi Strauss Foundation.
  • Satonya Fair, director of grants management at The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  • Angela Frusciante, knowledge development officer at the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund.
  • Lisette Islas, director of community organizing at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
  • Jin-Wook (Jay) Kim, director of community funds and racial equity at the Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners (MPP).
  • Dee Dee Nguyen, senior philanthropic advisor for the Marin Community Foundation..
  • Maggie Osborn, vice president for the Florida Philanthropic Network.
  • Lita Pardi, senior program officer for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
  • Christopher Nanni, vice president of program for the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County.
  • Leslie Ito, program officer for the California Community Foundation.

Since July, we’ve met at foundations around the country to have in-depth conversations with peers, foundation executives, search firm executives and others about the philanthropy sector. As with almost every leadership development course, we are blessed with a large amount of reading material to prepare for our in-person sessions. It’s all good–but some of it is just too good not to share with you. I’m happy to pass a few key pieces along.

The jury is in and experts agree that systems thinking is a top criteria for leadership. Here’s a link to the Waters Foundation Habits of Systems Thinkers. In our session, we used a case study to implement particular habits and challenged each other to use less-used elements to think differently about an issue.

Leaders draw on a deep reservoir of authenticity to make difficult decisions every day. I particularly enjoyed this talk by Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., Feeling Like a Fraud: Part Two. The article discusses the tension between authenticity and the lack of fit between what one feels and what is said about one’s virtues or competence or is expected in public speaking.

Public speaking is part of the job. Here’s a great and entertaining presentation on how to amp up how people see you. Power Poses.

We all know that the numbers matter. Social Venture Partners Boulder County has put together an excellent basic resource guide in understanding financial statements (first link in the list).

Last, Storytelling is an essential skill for sharing our mission and vision. We read Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact, by Annette Simmons. Coincidentally, the power of story will also be the topic of the upcoming The Foraker Group Leadership Summit so this could be your sneak peek.

It’s taken investment and energy of a dedicated group of people to bring Pathways to life. Pathways is part of the Council on Foundation’s Diversity and Inclusive Practices program and is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Thank you to Renee Branch, Ericka Plater Turner, Barbara Ceptus, Barbara Bruno and all the COF staff. Stellar facilitation and consulting support has been provided by Marta Siberio and Elizabeth Myrick.

We’re not done yet! The Pathways team will be in Chicago in early spring for one last session – a colloquium to share our talents with the field and commencement to celebrate our journey, just in time for the COF Annual Conference. It promises to be an enlightening and challenging few days.

Aleesha Towns-Bain, program officer at the Rasmuson Foundation. This post originally appeared on the Rasmuson Foundation’s blog

You’ve probably heard of Google+ Hangout and perhaps even used it to connect with family and friends over the holidays. But have you thought about the uses it could have for foundation staff and grantees?

I started thinking about the possibilities after using Google+ Hangout for a team project and a virtual meeting. I’ve created a list of four innovative ideas you may want to consider:

1. Foster grantee collaboration. With Google+ Hangout, you can hold a videoconference with up to 10 people. If someone isn’t able to connect, you can invite the person with a direct call. This idea may work better for foundations that currently rely on portals and discussion boards to foster communication among grantees and other professionals. With Hangout, everybody is in the same place at the same time adding valuable ideas to the discussion in real-time. Consider using the Symphonical app for a virtual whiteboard, the Hangout screen sharing option to show a presentation, or the Google Docs tool to collaborate on a document in real-time. Program officers can choose to host Google+ Hangouts with grantees to assist them in making connections with others that could further their work.

2. Broadcast lessons learned. Use the Hangouts On Air (HOA) option to broadcast and record discussions of lessons learned from program staff or grantees. An added advantage of HOA is the ability to stream the meeting on your Google+ profile, YouTube channel, and another external site. Those watching the broadcasted content on your YouTube channel can comment in real time. Keep track of these comments within the Hangout by using the Comment Tracker app included within the Hangout Toolbox. If you’re afraid someone might interrupt the public broadcast, use the Cameraman app to wield more control over who appears in your broadcast.

3. Making virtual site visits. If you have several grantees in your portfolio that shine, why not use your mobile phone and the Hangout app when you conduct a site visit? You can demonstrate how successful a grant has been and show the impact a grantee is making within the community in real time. For grantees, consider reaching out to your assigned program manager or program officer to show them in real-time how funded work is coming along.

4. Promote replication of practices that produce exceptional results. Do you have a program in your portfolio whose exceptional results make it a candidate for replication?  Why not ask grantee staff to educate others via Hangout? This could save other nonprofit leaders the travel time and expense they would normally spend for an on-site. It also allows your star grantee to share what has worked for them and increase their impact.

I am excited about this tool and look forward to its increased use by grantmakers and grantees. If you want to learn more about Hangout, make sure to connect with your foundation librarian.

Sophia Guevara is the chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries affinity group

On a warm and sunny day more than ten years ago, I visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the King Center in Atlanta. Having read and heard about the U.S. civil rights movement and struggle for freedom for black people in this country, I was excited to draw links and connections to the anti-apartheid movement. For me, it felt like visiting Robben Island, a place of historic magnitude and significance in my home country of South Africa.

I walked around the Center learning about Dr. King’s life and learning more about the wonderful connections he made with leaders of independent African states and liberation movements. What I was not prepared for was the Gandhi Room.

The Gandhi Room, a tribute to Mohandas K. Gandhi, explores the relationship between these two leaders and highlights Gandhi’s inspiration and philosophical insights to Dr. King’s leadership of the U.S. civil rights movement. Dr. King kept Gandhi’s book in his jacket pocket and visited India. Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha (Sanskrit for “insistence on truth” and employed in the Indian struggle for independence from the British) deeply influenced Dr. King’s beliefs and work.

Here I was, a South African of Indian descent living in the U.S., feeling as if three oceans were colliding and converging. Dr. King saw the power and value of learning about and forging various philosophies. He understood how movements were connected and intertwined. He saw how economic and racial injustice were digits of the same hand. He grasped the adage ‘that an injury to one, is an injury to all’ and recognized that he was ‘his brother’s keeper’. I sensed the power and inspiration of all those themes that day in Atlanta.

And yet, looking around this world and taking stock of what we are fighting for and against, I do not get that overwhelming feeling of convergence. Our movements for change, when we can actually call them movements, are, by design, isolated from each other. We have mastered the art of exposing our differences rather than taking the time to explore our similarities. Perhaps that American characteristic of individualism is the ‘operating system’ behind our struggles and our inability to see the connections among us. Perhaps it’s vying for philanthropic dollars and media hits that drive the need to differentiate and inadvertently create walls between us.

Regardless of the reason, it has to shift soon. Our isolation from each other is not healthy. Our inability to make serious connections with each other, and especially with people who are not like us, is a detriment to any future success. Each of our struggles should involve all of us: immigration is not only an immigrant issue; climate change is not only an environmental issue; same-sex unions and benefits are not only LGBTQ issues; drugs and violence are not only urban issues; drought and water scarcity are not only rural issues.

At the New World Foundation we are funding multi-issue, state-based organizations that weave various issues to educate and build a broad constituency. Having such a constituency allows these organizations to call on them to move specific issues as needed. We are experimenting with blurring the lines between program areas so we can be responsive to the needs of the field rather than locking ourselves into a handful of issues and charging ahead with a monolithic focus. We also partner with other funders and donors to maximize impact, reduce grantee and program officer time and energy, and educate each other by pooling our resources and streamlining the grantmaking process. The current political and economic context begs us to examine old ways of working and experimenting with new and creative ways. Our goal of building a just, democratic, clean and fun society for all depends on it.

Let’s take a moment today, on this day remembering Dr. King and his legacy, to look at the larger picture and remind each other that an injury to one is indeed an injury to all. We are, ultimately, each other’s keepers. Let’s start that work now. We hope you will join us.

Heeten Kalan, senior program officer at the New World Foundation. This blog post was originally run on Health and Environmental Funders Network Blog, Giving Insight

Last week, I predicted that the itemized deduction could soon be back on the table as Congress looks for ways to raise revenue. It may not have been a great leap to predict that, but my crystal ball is working: Yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced a February 14 hearing to examine the itemized deduction for charitable contributions.

As Chairman Camp stated, “Public charities and private foundations perform invaluable services for our society, especially during this time of economic slowdown and high unemployment…Because of the critical role that charities play, the committee must hear directly from the charitable community before considering any proposal as part of comprehensive tax reform that might impact their ability to obtain the resources they need to fulfill their mission.”

Rest assured that we will be submitting written testimony that offers specific examples of how philanthropy drives innovation and creates change that our government and the private sector cannot. I urge you to do the same.

The committee’s hearing advisory provides guidance for submitting written comments by Thursday, February 28, if you’re interested in lending your voice to the discussion.  If your representative is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, your voice would be particularly helpful.

If the deadline for comments doesn’t work for you, there are other ways to make sure your voice is heard, including sharing your stories of innovation and impact on this blog or by using #mygivingstory on Twitter. I also recommend that you make plans to attend next month’s Foundations on the Hill in Washington, D.C., so you can meet with your congressional representatives and their staffs to educate them not only about the important work you are doing in your communities, but what’s at stake if Congress tinkers with the sector in ways that are intentionally or unintentionally detrimental.

Whatever venue you use, the most important thing is to let your elected officials know that raising revenue at the expense of philanthropic organizations is not a solution. This is a critical moment for our sector. I know I’ve already suggested some specific marching orders, but I have one last request: Please send an e-mail to to let us know what’s on your mind and tell us how we can serve you better.

Sue Santa is senior vice president for public policy and legal affairs at the Council on Foundations.

As the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, and a veteran myself, the challenges those who serve face when they come home are topics near and dear to my heart.

There are so many ways to lean into this conversation. We can talk about mental health issues and the suicide rate within this population. According to a new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs, although the suicide rate among veterans is slightly higher than it was a decade ago, it is lower in the national context. This is because there is increased and dedicated funding to the VA by the federal government, helping to provide much-needed resources and ensuring that outreach programs, including suicide hotlines, remain robust.

We can also talk about organizations like the Farmer Veteran Coalition and Operation Homefront. The Farmer Veteran Coalition, founded in 2008 to help teach veterans sustainable farming and offer them a place to heal, was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation. And recently, in Watertown, N.Y., Operation Homefront—with help from the Home Depot Foundation—remodeled the home of a U.S. Army soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Of course, these examples do not begin to encompass the scope of activity. All across the country, philanthropy increasingly answers the call. For example, the Lincoln Community Foundation in Nebraska works tirelessly on veterans’ issues, as does The New York Community Trust and the Alcoa Foundation. In addition, the Council on Foundations’ Public Philanthropic Partnership team works with active duty partners such as the National Guard and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Warrior and Family Support), as well as member foundations, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to facilitate collaboration.

Mental wellness and health initiatives, homelessness, suicide prevention, workforce solutions, training—in this context they all apply to veterans. But really, they are community issues requiring a thoughtful and collaborative approach.  As part of the Council’s commitment to connecting funders doing similar work, we encourage those of you interested in veterans issues to contact us so that we can connect you with others working in this critical space.

Suzanne Stringfield is the coordinator of family philanthropy services at the Council on Foundations.

As foundations continue to assess where they can maximize the social return on their charitable investments, many are looking at issues of gender norms and equity.

While gender may impact every issue a funder addresses, often grantees and staff aren’t challenged to do innovative, intersectional work that connects race, class, and gender. For instance, differential treatment of men, women, and families is inextricably linked to many facets of civic engagement, from workplace fairness and immigration policy to welfare and prison reform.

Yet many civic engagement and civil rights grantees navigate largely by race and class, with little understanding of why a gender analysis is so important, or why having a gender lens is more than just “a women’s issue.” On the other hand, in areas like reproductive health, partner violence, school bullying, and education achievement, decades of research show that challenging harmful masculine and feminine norms is crucial to improving life outcomes for at-risk youth.

As Dr. Hortensia Amaro—an expert in at-risk youth—first observed in 1995, the United States still tends to pursue better outcomes in reproductive health and partner violence “in a gender vacuum.” Few programs, policies, or funding priorities integrate a strong, specific focus on challenging rigid gender norms and inequities.

But today all that is slowly starting to change. Prominent agencies like PEPFAR, USAID, UNAIDs, and WHO—and leading nonprofits like CARE, EngenderHealth, Futures Without Violence, ICRW, Men Can Stop Rape, Planned Parenthood, and Population Council—have begun implementing “gender transformative” initiatives that challenge rigid gender norms and inequities, and found them effective. And a core of dedicated program officers, often working on different issues in entirely separate “silos,”  are working quietly to do cutting-edge grantmaking that links gender with age, race, and class.

However, funders aren’t always gender experts themselves, and even those who want to do innovative grantmaking in this area may feel they lack the time, expertise, or proper tools to assist grantees. A new report, “Gender Transformative Philanthropy: A Key to Improving Program Outcome and Impact in At-Risk Communities,” is designed to help donors get a better understanding of the gender lens. Prepared with the input and guidance of more than a dozen program officers and donors, it covers basic language, concepts, and background, as well as the challenges ahead and specific suggestions for bringing gender to the center of grantmaking and funding priorities in the coming decade.

Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild.

It took many long hours—and hundreds of e-mails—to get to this point, but we finally, officially, proudly launched the Next Gen Donors report at last week’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose. This launch represents the culmination of more than a year of data gathering, analysis, writing, and preparation, all in order to provide first-of-its-kind, much-needed research about the next generation of major donors—a group that just might turn out to be the most significant philanthropists in history.

The Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy program at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy teamed with the experts on multigenerational philanthropy at 21/64 to conduct this study. We were assisted in the effort by partners such as the Council.

We sought insight about Gen X and Gen Y/Millennial donors who have the capacity for significant giving, both now and in the future. We asked questions about how they want to engage as donors, how they are learning about philanthropy, what they are excited about for their future, and how they see themselves as different from previous generations of donors.

The report and other information on the project are available at our website. We discovered many intriguing things about these fascinating young donors, all detailed there and described during our sessions at the conference.

For instance, while they are very eager to change how philanthropy operates, they don’t reject the past. They value family legacy, even as they are eager to take risks with new innovations and approaches. They want to be engaged in more meaningful, hands-on ways than traditional grantmaking has. And they want to be more intensively peer-oriented in their philanthropy—to give with, share information among, and learn from the experiences of their peers. In short, the challenge facing Next Gen donors is to find a way to respect legacy while also revolutionizing philanthropy.

But releasing the report, launching the website, and presenting findings in two sessions at the conference is just the beginning of our planned efforts to make this research widely used and useful to the field of family philanthropy. We want to start a conversation about #nextgendonors that continues for months to come.

The response from the audiences at last week’s conference confirms our expectation that people concerned with family philanthropy—from donors to staff to advisers to community foundations—are hungry for research about this important group. People have been asking us for more details from the study, and some are looking to convert this information into tips and guidance to meet their particular challenge in working with these Gen X and Millennial donors—either as members of their own families, trustees they serve, or new donors they want to engage and assist.

This is why we’ve thought of this initial launch as just the start of a conversation. Now we ask for ideas, assistance, and participation to help continue the #nexgendonors conversation and take the next steps. Please go to our website to offer your own reactions, experiences, and new ideas.

Michael Moody is Frey Chair for Family Foundations and Philanthropy, Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Who can argue with Bill Gates and his call for a more thoughtful and holistic approach to measurement?

It sounds like a simple equation: If you want to achieve progress, you set a clear goal and find a measure, or measures, that will drive progress toward that goal.

Ideally, however, measurement is a way of thinking. It answers the question, “What does success look like?” and should be part of daily practice and a key to any funder/grantee conversation. Many program officers are already conversant in logic modeling, theories of change, and goal setting. In addition, resources are increasingly being devoted to collecting, analyzing, and communicating/visualizing data; reporting the results; and using those results to improve and promote programs.

Implicit in Gates’ essay is the fact that funders and grantees require the capacity and proficiency to set clear goals and design the means to measure progress. This shared responsibility creates an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and collaboration and could deliver the innovations in measurement that Gates suggests. Although measurement can be very complex and difficult, grantmakers have a responsibility to make it one of their core competencies.

With a robust strategic giving plan, the contributions team at Johnson & Johnson is continuing on a journey to improve our ability, and that of our partners, to measure and communicate program results. We are certainly interested in the quantitative (numbers) and the qualitative (stories) results of our partnerships around the world. We have embraced “evaluation thinking” within the context of a global corporate giving program and created a “tiger team,” a cross-discipline sub-team which works to continuously improve our team’s ability to measure outcomes while improving our partners’ evaluation capacity. Embracing evaluation thinking has improved our practice on many levels, especially our relationships with community partners.

Among funders, more dialogue around measurement will surely improve the quality of our work. Program outcomes and results are directly linked to how we, as funders, demonstrate the impact and value of our work to our stakeholders. As Chris Pinney concluded in Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy: “In this time of turbulence and change, all organizations are being asked to rethink their purpose and actions to create greater value for society. We believe an enormous opportunity exists today for leaders in corporate philanthropy to step up to this challenge.”

Come join the conversation around value at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in Chicago.

Michael Bzdak, Ph.D., is a director of corporate contributions for Johnson & Johnson and serves on the Council’s Corporate Committee.

We as a field have become and are encouraged to become increasingly “strategic” in our efforts. There is literature on the subject; we hold conferences and conference sessions on it. But, for all this strategy, are we more effective as a result? I would say not as much as we could be.

In recent years, philanthropy has adopted much of the type of strategic philanthropy described by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey. Although the shift toward strategic philanthropy has improved effectiveness, it has done so at a cost: There is significantly less attention paid to transformative change by prioritizing and including underserved communities and support of community organizing—approaches long understood by social justice philanthropists. Indeed, most of the major social movements of our time can be traced to grassroots movements and the tactics of advocacy and organizing.

In NCRP’s new report, “Real Results: Why Strategic Philanthropy is Social Justice Philanthropy,” Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski explain why, at their best, strategic philanthropy and social justice philanthropy are, in fact, the same.

To conclude the report, Niki and Kevin present these questions grantmakers can ask about the role of social justice in their strategic efforts:  

  1. What is your vision of success? What is your strategy?
  2. What are some of the barriers to making progress on issues of concern to you? How is your philanthropy working to address those challenges?
  3. Who benefits from your philanthropy? What proportion of your philanthropy benefits underserved communities, e.g., economically disadvantaged persons, racial and ethnic minorities, women and girls, single parents, offenders and ex-offenders, and LGBTQ communities? Are you comfortable with this level of funding for vulnerable populations?
  4. How do you ensure that your philanthropy reaches those who might benefit most from it?
  5. What role does public policy play in your theory of change that informs your grantmaking strategy? What are some of the barriers to funding public policy and advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement at your foundation? How might greater public policy engagement among the nonprofits you fund advance your mission and complement your current efforts?
  6. What proportion of your grant dollars influences public policy relevant to your issue focus? How much of your grantmaking supports advocacy, organizing, or civic engagement on behalf of those who are the least well off politically, economically, and socially? Are you comfortable with how much of your portfolio is dedicated to social justice work?
  7. How does the foundation evaluate the impact of its grantmaking? How does this learning influence your theory of change, your strategy and grantmaking decisions?
  8. How are grantees and the communities they serve involved in your foundation’s learning process? How do they inform decision making? Are you providing grantees with sufficient general operating and multiyear support?

I encourage you to read Real Results and to take these questions into consideration as you develop your grantmaking strategy with grantees and others.

Aaron Dorfman is executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and frequently blogs about the role of philanthropy in society. He presented the report during the “Beyond Silos and Short Term Goals: How High-Impact Are Your Strategies” session at the Council on Foundations 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference.

 “Family foundations evolve, so they need to be able to evolve.”—Kelin Gersick, author, Generations of Giving

As I participated in the preconference transitions workshop at this week’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose, I was struck by the simple truth of this statement.  The life cycle of a family foundation is filled with key turning points that shape its personality, its impact, and its legacy.  These transition points can be generated by the families through births, marriages, divorces, and deaths.  They can be stimulated by the foundation, as when an influx of assets occurs or a change in leadership happens.  Involving new generations is a special transition with countless implications.  And transitions can be brought about by the community, when needs change and a new giving approach or expanded geography may be desired.

Regardless of the catalyst, the way a family comes together to address issues over time is how a family foundation is truly formed. Transitions can be challenging, yet they are necessary and filled with possibility. They are opportunities for renewing the engagement of trustees. For balancing respect for legacy with the needs and circumstances of the time. For reimagining the future.

In short, they are points in time for learning how to evolve.

As I talk with the many engaged and committed family members here in San Jose, I am reinvigorated by their willingness to learn and try new approaches, to have necessary but “difficult” conversations, and to look objectively at the impact of their work. The field is evolving, one family at a time.

Virginia Esposito is president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.

Earlier this month, I joined the Council on Foundations after following a rather unique road in government relations, the law, and public policy. I’ve worked in all three sectors: public, private, and now independent. From my perspective, this new opportunity—this leap of faith that I’ve taken—is tailor made for what I do well, which is identifying opportunities, addressing issues, devising strategies, and solving problems in creative ways.

At the opening plenary session of this week’s Family Philanthropy Conference, David Peter Stroh challenged us to join him on a journey into systems thinking. During the discussion, I engaged in my own mental gymnastics to see how this applies to our work in public policy and government relations. It occurred to me that our involvement in the current national debates in Washington over revenue, spending emergencies, and longer term tax policy requires us to do our own version of systems thinking where we are challenged to address current emergencies while still being mindful of the precedent that’s being set—in David’s words, the intended or unintended consequences.

Following in David’s rather large footsteps, yesterday I moderated the conference’s second plenary session: “Tax Reform: What’s at Play and What’s at Stake?” Early on in the discussion one of the panelists—Matt Dolan of the Federal Policy Group—reminded us of several important dates we must all keep in mind:

  • March 27, when the current funding for the federal government expires
  • April 15, the deadline for reporting next year’s budget
  • May 18, when we hit our new debt ceiling

Clearly we can predict at least some of the issues that lie ahead in the 113th Congress—tax reform, for example—and that, based on the impending deadlines I just mentioned, there will be a huge push for revenue. In this push, the itemized deduction could very well be back on the table as it was during the “fiscal cliff” deliberations. I can also predict that we will be following these issues closely, engaged in the process and keeping you informed of any new developments.

But what about the next issues we’re faced with down the line? How will we determine where the Council should participate? Is it as an educator, a convener, a collaborator, a lobbying force—or all of the above? And what is best for the health, well-being, growth, and future of philanthropic organizations? While my crystal ball can’t predict how it will all turn out, I can tell you this: We’ll be seeking your input as we grapple with these and other key questions and get ready to blaze some exciting new trails.

And that leads me back to yesterday’s panel, where Matt and the other wonderful speakers—John Tyler of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Gloria Johnson-Cusack of Leadership 18, Kristin Hull of the Nia Community Foundation, and Mike Halligan of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation—explored some of the current issues that could have a direct and potentially damaging impact on the charitable community, as well as the best opportunities to reach favorable outcomes.

For me, one of the highlights of the discussion was when Mike read thank you notes from elementary school students who participated in a production of The Princess and the Pea at the Missoula (Montana) Children’s Theatre, an organization the Washington Foundation has supported since 1990. This, he reminded us, tells the story of why philanthropy is important to America. There weren’t many dry eyes in the house when he was through.

As Mike did so movingly yesterday, please share your stories on this blog or by using mygivingstory on Twitter. There’s no better way to make sure our policymakers understand the impactful work our sector is doing every day. I also encourage you to send an e-mail to to tell us about the issues that are important to you and let us know how we can serve you better.

Sue Santa is senior vice president for public policy and legal affairs at the Council on Foundations.

This year’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference is challenging those of us in family philanthropy to consider how systems thinking applies to our work. At the opening plenary, David Peter Stroh from Bridgeway Partners defined a system as “an interconnected set of elements organized to achieve something.” In a philanthropic context, systems thinking involves rewiring our minds, organizations, and grantmaking practices to address both the obvious and less obvious aspects of the systems in which we and our grantees operate.

For example, consider the life of a young girl. She could live in the United States or another country. She could live in a rural or urban environment. Now consider all of the forces at play determining whether or not that young girl will grow into a happy, healthy, and productive adult.

Yesterday afternoon Victoria Dunning, vice president for programs at The Global Fund for Children, led a lively session, “Investing in Girls and Women: Innovations and Opportunities for Impact,” about how systems thinking applies to investing in women and girls. She took a school backpack, held it in front of her, and slowly unpacked the objects inside. The 10 objects symbolize things every girl should have in her life:

  1. A water bottle representing access to clean water and healthy living.
  2. A notebook representing education.
  3. A compass whistle representing the ability to map life, mobility, survival,  and safety .
  4. An identity card representing links to her name, her family, her culture, and available resources should she find herself as a refugee or asylum seeker.
  5. A book representing literacy and the chance to learn and dream about the wider world and other possible futures.
  6. A cell phone representing social networks, access to information, and banking.
  7. A purse representing financial literacy and paths to making a living.
  8. Clean underwear, menstrual pads, and tissues supporting her mobility and ability to be an active member of her community.
  9. A condom representing her ability to have control over her sexual life and choices.
  10.  A pocket copy of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights because every girl should know and practice her rights as a human being and active global citizen.

These 10 objects represent some of the forces at play in shaping the lives of young women. They also symbolize the many different ways we as grantmakers can consider investing in women and girls.

Imagine how different the world would look if every girl in the world—the United States included—had tangible access to the resources represented in Victoria’s backpack.

If you don’t (yet) have an explicit investment strategy focused on women and girls, imagine how different the world would look if you took steps to bring an awareness of how your grantmaking—from environmental issues to health issues to economic development issues—directly and indirectly impacts the future for women and girls.

Systems are powerful; they are forged by deep forces. But they are also fragile; if one element is taken away, the whole system changes. The bad news about this paradoxical tension is that an ill-conceived philanthropic investment can bring on an avalanche of negative unintended consequences, sometimes costing livelihoods and lives. The good news is that family philanthropy, at its best and most conscious and informed by diverse perspectives, can also make big differences even with small, well-placed investments.

Here’s to continuing the conversation about the risks and opportunities of systems-level change over the next few days, and the upcoming decades.

Heather Lord is a trustee for the RNR Charitable Foundation.

The central piece of the vision for the Council on Foundations 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference  is found in our theme of “systems thinking.” To be most effective and find the right approaches given our capacities we need to understand how these systems are affecting the issues we care about, how to interact with those systems, and what their structure really is. I am extremely excited about the inclusion of this theme because I think it is a critical lens to being effective in manifesting lasting social change.

The rest of it I’d like to sum up with three I’s, an E, and a T. It wouldn’t get me very far on Wheel of Fortune but here it stands for interactive, inclusive, innovative, energizing, and thought provoking.

It was essential to me that this conference be interactive. I don’t know about you but after an hour or two of being talked at you are going to lose me no matter how brilliant you are being. We know adults don’t learn that way. One new solution you will find throughout the conference is the salons, where there is a topic and a moderator and the rest depends on you. It is just one example of how we hope to put this concept into action in a new way.

We also aim for this conferenceto beinclusive. Family philanthropy is diverse in many ways, including the roles people play, the perspectives or ideologies, the strategies we use for change, the issue areas we focus on, and the structures or vehicles we use to engage in philanthropy. This conference should provide a space in which all of you feel welcome and have representation. I ask that you listen and learn from people who are different from you and challenge yourself to keep an open mind.

This conference will be innovative. We are in San Jose and the Silicon Valley. This place is all about new ideas and we in philanthropy are uniquely positioned to support innovation and be innovative ourselves. My hope is that we all walk away with new ways of thinking about our work, new and unexpected connections, and at least a few actionable items that we can implement in our work.

Now onto the E, which stands for energizing. We want this conference to energize you and make you excited about your work and the possibilities that it has. The work we do is important and when I hear about some of the amazing work you are doing I feel inspired and reenergized about mine.

Under Vikki’s Spruill’s leadership, the Council on Foundations is putting a real emphasis on being a thought leader. That leads to the final letter, the T for thought provoking. We don’t want to shy away from the debates in the field. In fact, we want to tackle them head on. Our work does not lend itself to easy answers. If it did we would have solved all these things already, Poverty would be a thing of the past, education would be perfect, the environment would not be in danger, we would live in Utopia. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Together we will struggle with hard ideas and walk away better equipped to take on great and noble challenges. I am thrilled to be here with all of you and am so excited to see what the next few days bring.

Elenore Garton is vice chair of the Marie C. & Joseph C. Wilson Foundation, director of strategy and philanthropic partnerships at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, and chair of the 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference Planning Task Force. This blog is excerpted from her remarks during the conference.

It’s no accident that the Council on Foundations 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference takes place this week in Silicon Valley. This is Ground Zero for technological innovation. Ideas birthed here have changed—and continue to change—the world.

Silicon Valley has been the workshop of some brilliant entrepreneurs. People like Steve Jobs, William Hewlett, David Packard, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and the founders of Google—Larry Page and Sergey Brin—their amazing work sparked a revolution.

These Silicon Valley visionaries had a sense of urgency and focus. They intended impactful results. They took many incremental, calculated risks, or “little bets,” learned from their mistakes, and course-corrected. They failed their way to success, and there’s a lot to learn from them.

The relationship between technological innovation and philanthropy is compelling. What is philanthropy, if not a series of bets on the future? What is philanthropy, if not social entrepreneurship? Philanthropy doesn’t wait for the one big solution to all the world’s ills before digging in. It grabs on where it can and tries to move the marker forward, even a little.

Philanthropy knows risk, too. Every time we back a cause we care about, we are taking a calculated risk that we can improve the human condition.

In the true spirit of innovation and calculated risk, last fall we rolled out a major revisioning of the Council on Foundations, which was designed to ensure the Council’s relevance and refocus its strengths. That work is still very much underway and it has great import for this conference, for the philanthropic year ahead, and for the work each of you do.

The global pace of change has become blistering fast—and is getting faster. In the digital era we drink from a data fire hose. Businesses measure impact daily, even hourly. We demand quick turnarounds. Today’s marketplace rewards speed, responsiveness, improvisation, and iteration.

When I joined the Council last July, the Council wasn’t working at this pace. We needed to reimagine our organization to provide value not available anywhere else—go from Council 1.0 to Council 2.0.

The Council is going from being a transaction-based service organization to a relationship-based service organization focused on thought leadership and member stewardship. To borrow an image from IT, we are moving from being a terminus—a place to come to “get things”—to a central hub within a large network, a point of connection.

Let me give you some examples.

Last year, Superstorm Sandy devastated the Eastern seaboard. Under the old model, the Council would have pulled together some internal staff and provided members with the best information we had. By contrast, the new Council gathered people and organizations that had badly needed special expertise—knowledge of the community, of the locale, of disaster grantmaking—and connected them with Council members. We gave our members access to real-time, relevant data that kept them informed—and we did it fast

When the horrific event in Newtown, Connecticut, unfolded in December, the new Council hosted a call within the week following this tragic incident with the community foundation that serves Newtown, plus regional colleagues, experts, and local officials. We connected them with other foundations that have experienced tragedies of their own, to share best practices for healing a community. We compiled a vetted inventory of philanthropic efforts in the area of gun control and shared it. Members got info they needed to better serve a traumatized community. New relationships were fostered and issue networks were strengthened. Subsequently, the White House invited the Council to help generate ideas to solve the systemic problems associated with gun violence.

So, here’s a formula to consider: Relevance + networking + speed = impact.

Historically, we’ve defined our value to you as the ability to provide a specific service to a specific member—functional, but not always forward thinking or strategic or cost effective. We are not abandoning our work of providing the programs and services, but we are shifting how it happens. We will be agile, nimble, and networked.

This week we are in Silicon Valley to underscore this concept of systems thinking and how systems sustain us. As author Peter Senge has said, “Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots”—for [understanding] the subtle interconnectedness that gives living things their unique character.”

When we fail to leverage our “subtle interconnectedness” we overlook our huge influence upon each other. When we think and work in organizational and intellectual silos instead of fluid networks, we miss crucial opportunities to alter the social ecosystem in which we live for the better.

At a time of chronic economic challenges and growing need, we cannot miss those opportunities.

While most Americans don’t understand what philanthropy is all about, they sense their communities would be worse places to live if philanthropy no longer existed. We must educate citizens and lawmakers about how philanthropy works as part of the larger system. We must tell the story of philanthropy’s vital role in community life as creators of hope and possibilities. In order to do this, we need your help, your heart, your hard work, and your willingness to risk. Your experience brings a richness and truth to our national dialogue.

Let’s work together to define our interrelatedness. Share what the cutting edge is for your foundation, so we can connect you to others leading on that edge. I cannot think of more exciting or rewarding work to do together.

Vikki Spruill is president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. This blog was excerpted from her remarks at the 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose.

At a pivotal historical moment, family foundations are poised to address matters of racial equity, inclusion, and diversity to enhance their impact. These concerns are central to any thematic area a family foundation would address in its programming. Health, education, income and wealth, and any range of other issues are characterized by persistent disparities among demographic groups. If family foundations hope to influence systemic change, the realities of today’s demographics and inequities between racial and ethnic groups would have to be incorporated into strategic thinking and action.

This is not only true for foundation programming; its significance permeates every dimension of philanthropic institutions—their governance, staffing, purchasing, investing, evaluations, and so on. Overall, strategic philanthropic approaches taking into account the nature of complex demographics and disparities are especially crucial in the twenty first century.

A panel at the Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference (“Race, Diversity and Inclusion in Family Foundation’s Grantmaking Strategy,10:30 a.m.–noon, on Monday, January 28) will explore an array of considerations for family foundations around race, inclusion, and diversity. These considerations are comprehensive, spanning external communications with constituent populations, grantmaking, internal policies and practices, governance. The panel is being moderated by Dr. David Maurrasse, founder and president of Marga Incorporated. Founded in 2000, Marga advises philanthropic initiatives and community partnerships.

Marga coordinates the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group (REPG), which engages a cluster of foundations in continuous learning exchange on policies and practices related to racial equity, inclusion, and diversity. Members of the REPG include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago. Through the REPG, these foundations share their experiences on a wide range of issues, including the role of boards of directors, data collection on grantee demographics, and broad strategic plans and policies designed to align entire foundations around inclusive commitments. The REPG is mutually reinforcing, as member foundations’ policies and practices are informed by learning from peers.

The peer exchange approach is central to the REPG’s success, providing member foundations concrete ways to learn from each other and ultimately institute new ideas in their organizations. The philanthropic field can benefit from the REPG’s progress, which is captured in reports on the approaches of member foundations and other communications materials.

The panel at the Family Philanthropy Conference is designed in the spirit of peer learning exchange. Three panelists will address different ways in which family foundations can contribute to systemic change by consciously addressing critical demographic concerns. The panelists are: Gerald Solomon, executive director, the Samueli Foundation; Quinn Delaney, cofounder and president, Akonadi Foundation; and John Morning, a trustee of various organizations (most recently the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation). These panelists will share their experiences and the audience will have an opportunity to do the same. This panel should contribute to the growing dialogue and action to increase philanthropy’s inclusion, equity, and diversity.

Cynthia Jones is CEO of Marga Incorporated. David Maurrasse is its founder and president.

Blessed are the family foundations graced with harmonious board interaction, for they may be focused on their grantmaking. Running through case studies in preparation for our session at this month’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose, I am struck by the power of a grantmaking program rooted in community ties, family values, well-researched issue areas, and long-term strategic planning. Free from family governance issues, these grantmaking case studies focus outward on communities, programs, and execution.

This daydream of mine got me thinking. Without the “family dynamics” on a foundation’s board, would a family’s philanthropy be less complicated?  Maybe. But here’s what might go missing:

  1. Passionate debate and well-developed ideas
  2. Inclusive decision making
  3. Shared values and common heritage
  4. Joyful consensus
  5. Sense of place
  6. Shared nurturing of younger generations

Families who work through their more complicated moments do get to the business of grantmaking, with stronger connections to one another and to their communities, and a greater understanding of one another and their common goals.

Measuring the value of these dimensions of family philanthropy is difficult. “Priceless” comes to mind. Just ask a family member at the conference in San Jose.

Mary Phillips is a founding director and president of GMA Foundations. She will facilitate the session, “Turning the Page: Realigning Your Foundation’s Grantmaking Strategy,” at the Family Philanthropy Conference on Monday, January 28.

Today, 600,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs remain open in the United States and more than 82 percent of manufacturers report that these jobs are unfilled because they can’t find people with the necessary skills. More specifically, according to a Manufacturing Institute survey, there is a critical skills gap in advanced manufacturing. Jobs in this sector are more demanding than ever and require increasingly sophisticated skill sets. Veterans offer the technical, leadership, and critical thinking skills that advanced manufacturing demands.

As the charitable arm of a mining, manufacturing, and engineering company, Alcoa Foundation is addressing the manufacturing skills gap issue by investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and workforce development partnerships with innovative initiatives focused on developing the next generation of skilled operators, managers, tradespeople, engineers, and designers.

Facing shortages of qualified operators, skilled tradespeople, and experienced supervisors, Alcoa, like other manufacturers, is reaching out to veterans as an untapped source of talent. Through recruiting and outreach activities, we learned that highly qualified veterans face a “translation” challenge — how to translate military experience and skills into the civilian workforce’s job requirements for careers in manufacturing? Alcoa employees who participate in volunteering initiatives, like the American Corporate Partners mentorship program, often get asked about this. With one million veterans expected to exit the armed forces over the next four years, “translation” will continue to be an issue. Veterans not only need jobs, they need the tools to be successful in addition to actual opportunities for employment.

Recently, Alcoa Foundation joined a list of blue-chip corporations that are working together to accelerate skills training at community colleges for U.S. veterans; help veterans and employers translate military skills to advanced manufacturing jobs; and empower employers with tools to recruit, onboard, and mentor veterans. The Get Skills to Work coalition, led by GE and joined by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is managed by the Manufacturing Institute with a goal of training and matching 100,000 veterans with careers in manufacturing by 2015.

Forming the coalition and coordinating with nonprofits to train, recruit, and develop veterans is an exciting model that has the potential to change lives and produce a significant competitive advantage for U.S. manufacturers. We are honored to be part of this worthwhile endeavor.

In addition to the coalition, we continue to invest in our outreach to veterans through our foundation and HR recruiting efforts, with partners including American Corporate Partners, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Recruit Military, and Orion International.

It is our experience that companies, foundations, and nonprofits that create connections and bring multiple entities together are more efficient and effective. So, we encourage you to join the Get Skills to Work coalition or share your best practices for training and hiring veterans with others in your network.

Scott Hudson is principal manager at Alcoa Foundation.

In 2012 there were further signs that the once staid tradition of employees taking part in annual workplace giving campaigns has been upended by digital technology, younger workers with new ideas, and the need for more engagement between employers and employees. Those are the preliminary findings from America’s Charities 2012 Snapshot: Trends and Strategies to Engage Employees in Greater Giving, its third report since 2000 about the $3 billion employees donate on the job each year to nonprofits.

Giving is up at a majority of companies surveyed, but employee participation rates are down at nearly 50 percent of them. Experts say this is a sign that those who are already involved feel comfortable; however, more needs to be done to engage additional employees.

More than two-thirds of companies surveyed offer matching payroll contributions—a 58 percent increase since 2006. This is especially striking given the economic stress corporate America has been under.

America’s Charities ( brings public and private sector employers together with charities to engage employees in greater giving. It offers a comprehensive solution that generates unrestricted, sustainable financial support for charities through employee workplace payroll giving and other individual efforts. Nearly 100 companies participated in the survey; altogether, they raised more than $230 million through traditional employee giving campaigns in 2012.

The full Trends report will be available for free soon. Go to for more information.

The Top Five Trends are:

1. Brands R Us. A majority of companies (80 percent) in the survey are branding their workplace giving programs with their own names, themes, and/or logos.

2. We “Like” to Share Why We Give. Currently, 30 percent of respondents allow employees to post videos and/or testimonials supporting their favorite charities as part of the giving program. More than half report they are likely to incorporate more social media tools into the giving activities.

3. The Millennials Arrive. Young workers want their giving to be peer-oriented. Companies are also recognizing they need to provide millennials with opportunities to meaningfully participate by volunteering.

4. High Impact, Low Cost. Companies are concerned about the time and the cost of conducting employee giving campaigns. About 85 percent of respondents said administering the campaign is one of their top challenges.

5. One-Stop Shop. Companies are devising an overall strategy for giving, volunteerism, skills-based pro bono, and engagement.

In addition, more than 80 percent of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the company is committed to a strong program and that employee giving is still a priority.

Steve Delfin is president and CEO of America’s Charities.

If you’re a busy professional, you may be interested in locating apps that can help you be more effective. But with more than 700,000 apps currently available in Google Play, finding the right ones to install on your Android phone can be difficult. With that being said, here are five free apps I’d like to recommend:

1. GrooVe IP Lite. This free ad-supported app connects to Google Voice with voice over IP. You can make free calls using Wi-Fi and a Wi-Fi-enabled phone to numbers in the United States or Canada. This is especially helpful for those individuals visiting grantees in an area with no cell coverage or for those who travel internationally and don’t want to come home to a big phone bill.

If you use this option, make sure you have a Google Voice account already established and a chosen phone number. To accept incoming calls, you will also need to change voice settings so that calls are routed to chat.  I’ve gone further and set voice to e-mail the phone number and transcription of messages from missed calls so that I don’t have to call voicemail.

2. Talk to Me Cloud. This free, ad-supported app allows you to type in text or use speech to enter phrases that can be translated into a variety of languages. So if you’re visiting someone in a community that may know little English and you don’t have a translator around, speak into this app and the phrase will be translated and spoken in the language you select.

3. Chrome Browser. Having gained experience with Google Chrome on my desktop and tablet, I thought that it might be a good idea to install the same browser on my phone. The browser app is free, easy to use, and provides the opportunity to sync across devices once you have signed in.

4. QR Droid. This is the answer if you need a free app to read or create QR codes. I suggest changing the settings in the app so that you are not automatically directed to it.

5. Google Drive. I have found this app to be so valuable that I have installed it on both my tablet and smartphone. On the tablet, I use my camera to take pictures of important documents for future access. This cuts down on problems associated with misplacing or losing documents. I can choose to make certain documents available offline, so I do this right before a meeting just in case I anticipate no Wi-Fi access or 3G/4G coverage.

Contact your foundation’s librarian if you are interested in researching more apps that can help you become more productive.

Sophia Guevara is the chair of the Consortium of Foundation Libraries affinity group

Philanthropy is tightly woven into the fabric of American society. It’s hard to imagine life without the fruits of charitable giving, including hospice care, insulin, vaccines, civil rights, Sesame Street, the 911 system, and even white lines on roadways. These and other advances are among the products of philanthropy that support thousands of organizations serving millions of people every day.

Unfortunately, the broad importance of the sector and the size of its impact are not well known, including among public and elected officials. This is a particular concern as Congress and the White House are debating the role of the sector and considering caps or limits on incentives that encourage charitable giving. Fortunately, appreciation is growing for the far-reaching effect that foundations and charitable giving have in our communities.

Using established economic models, a new study from The Philanthropic Collaborative (TPC) examines how domestic foundation grants in 2010 ($37.85 billion) are contributing to job creation, wages, GDP, and tax revenues. According to the study, foundation grantmaking in 2010 helped create about 500,000 direct jobs for those hired to implement the grant. Within one year, the number expands to nearly 1 million jobs when the “ripple effects” are included.

The study also presents longer-term projections of economic benefits such as better health care, educational opportunities, and quality of life. In addition, the study connects foundation grantmaking to nearly 4.5 million new jobs through long-term benefits or 8.8 million jobs when including ripple effects.

To help specifically demonstrate benefits to communities, the report includes case studies that document long-term economic benefits from reduced costs of juvenile crime, health care and social services, greater employment opportunities for the disabled and homeless, revitalized urban areas, and advanced longevity and quality of life from medical cures and treatments derived from scientific research.

Other outcomes include improved worker education and productivity, as well as a thriving business environment given the importance of schools, hospitals, cultural organizations, and other charitable enterprises to a community’s ability to attract and retain businesses. Of course, philanthropic support for entrepreneurship and the ecosystem that supports it can be even more far reaching.

Foundations and the organizations they support are vital components of the U.S. economy. To view them simply through a social filter neglects their essential roles as participants in and contributors to our nation’s economy. To view them solely through an economic lens or as diverted tax resources risks jeopardizing their immense social and other non-financial contributions. The TPC study shines light on both.

John Tyler is chair of The Philanthropic Collaborative and general counsel and secretary of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. This post is based on Mr. Tyler’s foreword from the report “Economic Impacts of 2010 Foundation Grantmaking on the U.S. Economy”

Cities like Cleveland typically have rich assets in their “eds and meds”: top-tier academic and medical institutions that draw people from around the world. In NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology, we at the Cleveland Foundation and our partners have created a dynamic resource that plays in both sectors, opening young minds to the value of education and training economically disadvantaged adults for careers as medical professionals.

NewBridge grew from seeds we planted in partnership with Bill Strickland, founder of the highly successful Manchester Bidwell Corp. and a 1996 MacArthur fellow. With support from Manchester Bidwell, the foundation laid the groundwork to replicate the Pittsburgh organization’s programs in Cleveland, conducting a feasibility study, interviews, and focus groups that substantiated the need for a local arts education and job training center.

Youth arts classes started in fall 2010 with 90 ninth graders from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Since then, 429 youths from more than 40 local high schools both inside and outside the city have gone through the program. Some 55 percent of NewBridge students are male, an unusually high number for after-school programming. NewBridge has expanded its offering to include high school sophomores and juniors among the 177 students enrolled in fall 2012 classes.

For students, NewBridge represents a caring community where they can express themselves safely under the guidance of accomplished artists who are also gifted teachers. Each trimester concludes with an art exhibition that showcases students’ work. Ultimately, NewBridge aims to nurture a lifelong love of learning in students and motivate them to stay in school.

The first adult training class launched in April 2011. Five months later, 14 phlebotomy technician graduates donned their white coats. In July 2012, seven more new phlebotomists joined 15 newly trained pharmacy technicians at graduation ceremonies. Of these 36 graduates, 22 have secured jobs to date and one has gone on to pursue higher education.

Cleveland’s leading health care providers had significant input in shaping the curricula for these programs, thus ensuring that graduates would be well prepared for employment. Many trainees are unemployed or underemployed, and many are parents and heads of households in economic distress. Their pride in becoming self-sufficient, productive members of the community is palpable. News of their success is spreading: Since December 2011, 820 applicants have vied for 84 spaces in the adult training programs.

NewBridge is changing individual lives. On a larger scale, it’s encouraging dialogue between the community and its internationally renowned anchor institutions—the eds and meds—that breaks down barriers and sets the stage for future partnerships.

The Cleveland Foundation featured the NewBridge story in the spring 2012 issue of its donor publication, Giving Voice. We are proud to have convened the players and catalyzed the launch of this worthy program in Cleveland. Today, NewBridge stands as a testament to Bill Strickland’s wise dictum: “Change the environment. Change the assumptions. People are capable of extraordinary things.”

India Pierce Lee is program director for neighborhoods, housing, and community development at the Cleveland Foundation.

Welcome to RE: Philanthropy! In this blog, guest and Council bloggers share ideas and insights on the most pressing issues in philanthropy. If you want to contribute, please contact

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Council on Foundations.


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