Prepping Youth to Attend Site Visits: In Their Own Words

By Nikki Hilgert, Exponent Philanthropy

Involving youth in site visits gives a whole new energy to the process for everyone involved. Plus, nonprofits say that young people often ask the best questions on site visits.

As with any new experience, preparation is key to successful site visits with youth—and conversation about an upcoming site visit is one great way to prepare. Recently, Annie Hernandez of Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation modeled a helpful dialogue about site visits with two teen philanthropists: Sarah Saltzman and Luke Sturtz.

teen-philanthropy-cafe-web-bannerThe dialogue that follows was based on an exercise in our new Teen Philanthropy Café reader Thoughtful Site Visits.

Read more from Annie, Sarah, and Luke in the recent post “5 Ways to Involve Youth in Philanthropy”

What are some personal reasons you may have for visiting a nonprofit? What would you like to learn?

Luke: One reason is to get a feel for who the people are you’re working with. One-on-one interaction adds so much more value than reviewing a proposal on paper.

What are some skills or information you can gain from site visits?

Sarah: Being able to ask thoughtful questions and articulate what you’re curious about is a crucial life skill. Even in casual conversation, it’s important to be able to ask intelligent questions and maintain conversation with new people. I was shaky in this area when starting to go on site visits, and have improved.

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Help Your Board Members (or Anyone) Be Open to New Ideas

By Ruth Masterson, Exponent Philanthropy 

Is your foundation board stuck or complacent? Have you been wanting board members to consider a new strategy or project, only to find they just aren’t willing to listen? Perhaps you need a new approach—a fresh one—to create the space where board members feel willing to consider change.

I found a helpful idea in a book I’m reading, Intentional Leadership by Jane A.G. Kise. Within it, a chart outlines the elements of Carl Jung’s theory of personality types and makes suggestions for what individuals of different types might need to be open to change. 

The personality types have been popularized by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, a questionnaire that aims to determine where individuals fall on Jung’s spectrums. This structure is something many of us are familiar with; briefly stated, the four spectrums are these:

  • I/E: Introverted (energized by down time) or Extroverted (energized by being around others)
  • S/N: Sensing (relying on sense perceptions) or Intuitive (relying on intuitions)
  • T/F: Thinking (preferring to approach situations with logic) or Feeling (preferring emotional understanding)
  • J/P: Judging (making quick decisions) or Perceiving (preferring to gather more information)

So, back to where we started: You want to be a catalyst for change on your foundation board.

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The Pulse: Gen Z, State Budget Shortfalls, Tackling Climate Change

By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy

I regularly explore trends influencing philanthropy by spotlighting articles, reports, and essays in the media. I cast a wide net, venturing beyond philanthropy and traditional topics to consider a variety of ideas, innovations, debates, and critiques. Read previous posts in the series   

Generation Z Stands Out in Generosity, Tech Savvy, Self-Reliance

Research on youth in America indicates that young people between 7 and 17 may be the most philanthropic and civically engaged of all current generations, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy article by Brennen Jensen (subscription only). Dubbed “Generation Z,” these young people are socially aware, optimistic, generous—and uniquely connected technologically, having used mobile devices almost since birth. One study by marketing agency Deep Focus reports that “Nearly 70 percent of people under 20 have volunteered, with nearly half doing so at least once a month… More than a third of those surveyed had donated their own money to a cause, while more than one in four had helped raise money.”

“Observers of the generation say that growing up with Google at their fingertips has engendered self-reliance and lessened a dependence on parents, other adults, or individual institutions for information and guidance. ’With their ready access to information, they can form their own opinions,’ says Jamie Gut­fruend, chief marketing officer at Deep Focus. ’This means when it comes to philanthropy, kids of this generation want brands and institutions to talk to them directly. They want a seat at the table as independent thinkers with their own perspectives. They are more sophisticated in that way than earlier generations.’”

Nearly Half of States Expect to Confront Big Budget Gaps 

Although the U.S. economy is growing, a different story is emerging among many states: significant budget gaps. “An Associated Press analysis of statehouse finances around the country shows that at least 22 states project shortfalls for the coming fiscal year. The deficits recall recession-era anxiety about plunging tax revenue and deep cuts to education, social services and other government-funded programs. The forces at work today are somewhat different than when the recession took hold in 2008. In some states, revenue growth has been stagnant, missing projections and making it difficult to keep pace with expanding populations and rising costs for health care and education. Other states have been hurt by a steep decline in oil prices or seen their efforts to promote growth through tax cuts fail to work as anticipated.” Kansas, for example, may end the school year early.

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Are You Creating Space for Young Leaders to Lead?

By Stephen Alexander and Corey Jannicelli, Exponent Philanthropy 

confidenceMany young philanthropists ask themselves early on, Am I doing this right? It is understandable that emerging leaders may feel underprepared. They often are the youngest or newest member of a board or staff, sometimes just starting their professional journeys.

But something more powerful than age or experience is also at work: Almost to a fault—and, in our experience, without exception—young leaders in philanthropy approach their new positions with such deference—with such desire to add value and carry forward a legacy—that they humbly hesitate to contribute from the start, or to contribute confidently. Complex family dynamics can add additional hurdles.

If your organization is positioned to engage young leaders—or if you are a young leader yourself, your peers offer the following pointers for creating a welcoming space with opportunities to learn and build confidence.

Make Time for Meaningful Orientation

At the Donley Foundation, Executive Director Daphne Rowe created an intensive training program to onboard the next generation. “It was a detailed training,” says Jenny Donley, now a third-generation trustee. “We had assignments every few months, presented at board meetings, sat in on calls with the other next gen’ers, and, at the end, were tasked with making a discretionary grant.”

“I’ve been going on site visits with my dad,” says Sapphira Goradia, executive director of The Goradia Foundation in Houston. “It’s been so helpful to see what questions he asks from a business perspective. I think we better understand how we complement each other in this work. 

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Smarter Site Visits

By Samantha Alarie-Leca, The West Foundation

This post originally appeared on GrantCraft’s blog (May 6, 2015). Author Samantha Alarie-Leca, program officer with The West Foundation in Indianapolis, IN, is an Exponent Philanthropy member and alumna of our Next Gen Fellows Program. Learn more about the 2015 Next Gen Fellows Program starting May 18 in Washington, DC

A former colleague and friend at a small education nonprofit recently called to pick my brain about the role of site visits from a foundation perspective.  She was in the midst of planning a visit with a local program officer. A $10,000 grant was on the line, and she wanted everything to go off without a hitch. Her thoughtfully prepared agenda for a daylong visit included stops at staff offices as well as program facilities, viewing education programs in action, and hearing directly from several beneficiaries. Key program and development staff were also well-prepped on talking points regarding the grant request.

“Should I be doing more?” she asked.

I was a bit taken aback; her plan sounded great, but between the preparation and the actual visit, it also seemed to be a very time-intensive endeavor for her small team, especially considering the modest grant size. This conversation was an excellent reminder that most site visits are highly planned by nonprofits and can take significant effort, staff time, and resources for organizations to implement. For small organizations in particular, that might actually mean time away from directing programs or operations.

As a program officer at a small, private foundation, I strive to make site visits an efficient and productive platform for mutual learning and relationship-building. But, I began to wonder, were grantees putting in overtime to prepare for meetings with me? If so, were there simple steps I could take to minimize unnecessary stress or work on their behalf?

While I feel a firm responsibility to conduct thorough diligence and hold myself and grantees to high standards, I also want to respect their limited time and resources. In this spirit, I had a candid discussion with grantee Steve Schwartz, the co-founder of Upaya Social Ventures, to explore the benefits and challenges of funder visits from the nonprofit perspective. During my conversation with Steve, and through my own site visit experiences, four practices emerged as critical for effective site visits:

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One Great New Idea: Social Issue Specific PACs (SISPACs)

By Floyd Keene, The Triple EEE Foundation

In his recent blog post “Philanthropy and the Trends of Our Times,” Andy Carroll states that the America of the future will see decreasing social spending coupled with increasing human needs. This will result in more challenging, less meaningful lives for millions of Americans. He is 100% correct.

Andy challenges philanthropists to create “promising ideas for how philanthropy can make our country stronger.” Luckily, there’s good news on the horizon. Largely unnoticed and not yet classified as a “movement,” one idea could well change America—and do it quickly. It could force government to make rational public policy decisions to address major societal issues.

This incredibly promising and emerging new trend is the SISPAC (Social Issue Specific Political Action Committee).

SISPACs run and act like any other PAC (Political Action Committee) but with one big difference: They concentrate on one social issue. They have been around for a while but are just starting to become more commonly known.

A logical evolvement of the Super PAC trend and created under IRS Code Section 501(c)(4), money given to a SISPAC would not be deductible. Yet there are many other reasons why SISPACs will become more and more prevalent, effective, and important—for philanthropists specifically and for our society in general.

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5 Ways to Involve Youth in Philanthropy

By Nikki Hilgert, Exponent Philanthropy

Today’s young people come to philanthropy via many paths—not only by way of their families’ charitable giving. For example, with a combined decade of experience in philanthropy, teens Sarah Saltzman and Luke Sturtz don’t come from families with foundations or formal giving vehicles. They plugged into philanthropy through school and community.

Sarah grew up volunteering for a nonprofit her grandparents founded, and she attended Youth Philanthropy Connect’s (YPC’s) inaugural conference as a nonprofit representative. YPC is a project of the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation, and Sarah was later invited to join the foundation’s junior board. Luke has been involved with the Dekko Foundation since 7th grade, serving on two youth grantmaking teams.

Sarah and Luke joined us last month for the webinar “How to Engage Youth in Philanthropy in Meaningful, Fun Ways,” and they shared these tips for engaging the young people in your life or community in philanthropy.

Listen to a recording of the webinar “How to Engage Youth in Philanthropy in Meaningful, Fun Ways”

Listen to other Exponent Philanthropy webinar recordings

1.  Involve youth in the creation.

Sarah points out the “generational feeling of powerlessness in middle and high school youth.” Giving youth ownership within a grantmaking process can change this perspective and help them understand that philanthropy is a way for them to impact the world.

“Our ideas, our brainstorming give us a sense of control over the impact we’re having in the world,” says Sarah about her participation on the Fox Foundation’s junior board, which engages in a collaborative grant cycle each year and receives complete control over the decision-making process from the grant application to recommending where the money will go.

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Philanthropy and the Trends of Our Times

By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy

As each of us gives our dollars, time, and skills to make communities better, it’s easy to assume we act independently and alone. Along the way, we can lose sight of the forces, trends, and ideas that influence our giving and the impact we strive to make.

A Landscape-Altering Trend

Among all the trends that impact philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, one stands out in scale and scope, influencing so many other trends: growing economic hardship faced by millions of Americans. Hardship has been increasing over the past two decades, and it shows no sign of abating.

Let’s look at some specifics.

  • Poverty in the United States has reached the highest level in half a century, with 15% of households, or 50 million people, living below the poverty line. One in five children, over 16 million, are poor; the youngest children are poorest.
  • Over 14% of households experience hunger, with hunger spreading into suburban areas.
  • On any given night, over 630,000 people are homeless; about 10% are veterans.
  • Median income for working-age households (headed by someone under age 65) slid 12.4% from 2000 to 2011, to $55,640.

Economic hardship now extends far beyond the Americans we traditionally label as poor. Financial precariousness extends to the working poor, young people with education and training, and the middle class. It has swelled the number of low-wage workers, the underemployed, the long-term unemployed, and citizens living in poverty.

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Philanthropy’s Role in Constructing a 21st Century Civic Infrastructure

By Jill Blair, Jill Blair Consulting

21st-Century-Civic-InfrastructureLike bridges, tunnels, and roads that compose our physical infrastructure and enable us to live more relational and economically vibrant lives, Malka Kopell and I argue in the recently released monograph 21st Century Civic Infrastructure: Under Construction that a well-designed civic infrastructure can be facilitative as well.

What is civic infrastructure?

It is the basis upon which ordinary people are able to participate in ordinary civic life, from joining neighborhood watch groups to entering the voting booth. Civic infrastructure comprises venues, policies, programs, and practices that enable us to connect with one another, address our shared concerns, build community, and solve problems.

Much of our 20th century civic infrastructure emerged as a product of philanthropic investment—organizations and programs intended to advance equity, education, and economic opportunity. And so we call upon philanthropy, large and small, to help lead the construction of a 21st century civic infrastructure that leverages the resources we now have to solve the problems we still face.

To identify the fundamental basis for a 21st century civic infrastructure, we reviewed literature and engaged in conversations with people committed to public problem-solving—leaders across business, philanthropy, nonprofits, and government. We landed on what we call keystones of 21st century civic infrastructure, the qualities that should be present in the programs and organizations we support:

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6 Ways Self-Dealing Can Creep Into a Foundation’s Work

By Sara Beggs, Exponent Philanthropy, with legal review by Ingrid Mittermaier, Adler & Colvin

The self-dealing rules for private foundations can—and do—trip up even the most seasoned and well-intentioned funders. Do you make it a point to review the self-dealing rules each year and seek out expert advice?

The general rule is this: Certain insiders known as “disqualified persons” are prohibited from engaging in a specific list of transactions with a private foundation, unless there exists a stated exception. If you are a board member, officer, or substantial contributor to a private foundation, you, your family members, and entities controlled by you must be cautious about any financial transactions with the foundation—even if they seem like a good deal for the foundation.

We asked attorneys at Adler & Colvin what self-dealing scenarios they encounter most, and we added additional ones based on the calls we field from our member foundations. The six examples that follow highlight specific self-dealing issues and suggest how to resolve them. Other self-dealing issues can be triggered in these scenarios that are not addressed here.

See additional examples in the full article (Exponent Philanthropy members only)

Get our 50-page primer “How to Avoid Self-Dealing”

  1. A trustee encourages the foundation to move its assets to the trustee’s high-performing personal money manager. When the foundation transfers its assets, the trustee’s personal management fees are cut in half, due to the increase in total assets under management. 

Why self-dealing? Foundations cannot make their income or assets available for the benefit or use of a disqualified person.

How to avoid self-dealing? Ensure the money manager understands the foundation’s assets are separate and that any fee reduction must be given to the private foundation, not the trustee. 

  1. A foundation hosts a board retreat in Florida where two board members live. The foundation pays all travel expenses for board members, including two additional hotel nights for those who want to extend their stay. 

Why self-dealing? Foundations cannot make their income or assets available for the benefit or use of a disqualified person.

How to avoid self-dealing? Ensure the foundation pays only for room nights necessary to attend the board retreat. All other expenses should be paid by the disqualified person directly to the hotel rather than reimbursing the foundation, which would necessitate a loan to a disqualified person.

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