Eyeing Trends in Grantmaking: Youth Engagement

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

One of the most satisfying and exciting opportunities we have at Foundant Technologies is to spot and highlight growing trends.

One of the trends we see in our work with over 600 grantmakers is the involvement of youth (ages 8+) during the grantmaking process. These young people represent the future of grantmaking, and their generation’s view of philanthropy is sure to influence the entire charitable community.

We think it’s important not only to pay attention to this trend of youth grantmaking, but also to invest in the development of these young philanthropists.  As a result, for the past several years, Foundant has sponsored efforts to engage next gen members in philanthropy. We are proud to have been part of this exciting evolution in the field.

Consider what involving youth could mean for your giving. Think about how you might benefit from a different perspective when evaluating your processes or reconsidering your current funding focus. A young voice can spotlight old habits by asking questions or making suggestions. Youth will also provide insight into how the younger generation views common problems. For example, who better than young people who spend their days immersed in education to provide a unique and grounded perspective to grantmakers in education? Finally, the energy and enthusiasm youth bring to this work are contagious. They put in tremendous effort and thought even for grants many consider small; to them, $1,000 is indeed life changing.

More often than not, youth approach philanthropy differently than adults. When you involve them, you can expect a more hands-on approach. The younger generation expects a relationship with their causes. This relationship, most likely, is as simple as following them via social media, but they want to hear the stories of the people they are helping. Most youth programs we have seen include some type of volunteerism as well.

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Tackling More Than You Think You Can

By Hanh Le, Exponent Philanthropy

Veronika Scott, founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan in Detroit, is the youngest recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award from the JFK Library Foundation and Harvard University. She received an IDEA Gold Award from the Industrial Design Society of America and is one of Crain’s 20 in Their 20s. CNN named Scott one of its 10 Visionary Women for 2014.

She’ll share her story at the closing plenary of Exponent Philanthropy’s 2014 National Conference.

Scott built The Empowerment Plan around a single idea: to design a coat specifically for the homeless that transforms into a sleeping bag and is given out across the United States to those living on the streets. That idea has now transformed into a system of empowerment in which homeless women are paid to learn how to produce coats for people living on the streets, giving them an opportunity to earn money, find a place to live, and gain back their independence.

About more than just a product, The Empowerment Plan breaks the cycle of poverty and invests in those that need it the most so they can create the life they want for themselves and their families.

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Voices of Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy

By Stephen Alexander, Exponent Philanthropy

Join me to explore the values and visions of emerging leaders of a social-minded generation. Below is an excerpt of my recent conversation with Alexandra Toma, executive director of the Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG), a network of philanthropists and funders investing in conflict and national security issues; and Sally Smith, managing director of The Nexus Fund, which works to build and strengthen the global community to end mass atrocities. Alex and Sally are both participants in Exponent Philanthropy’s 2014 Next Gen Fellows Program.

Why do you think there are so few funders supporting peace and security?

Alex Toma

Alex Toma, executive director of Peace and Security Funders Group

Alex: This is something PSFG is working on. One challenge is the way we talk about these issues. That genocide persists around the world is an uncomfortable and overwhelming idea for most people. We need to put our heads together and think about how we can make peace and security issues relatable to more people.

Sally: I see two issues here. First, people don’t like to hear depressing stories. We work on depressing matters, but I think there’s a way to tell more positive stories about how people are solving these problems. It’s something Alex and I discuss frequently. Second, people don’t understand that they can really make a difference. Mass atrocities and genocides can be prevented in many cases. It takes a lot of effort on multiple levels, but it can be done. We can make a big difference if we step up and work together. If people knew they could truly make a difference on something that seems so insurmountable, I have faith they would want to be a part of that.

What trends in philanthropy do you see that excite you?

Sally Smith

Sally Smith, managing director of The Nexus Fund

Sally: Innovation and technology. Sure, they’re buzz words, but new tools are being developed at a rapid pace, and it is an exciting time to find new ways to be more effective using these tools. Edutainment (education meets entertainment) is another. For example, in Rwanda there’s been an ongoing soap opera for 10 years. Its underlying message is that you shouldn’t hate others just because they are different from you, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with the message; it’s presented subtly in the form of a story. I’m also excited by how social media is changing the way we connect and share information. It’s helped break down a lot of silos in my field.

Alex: I’m really excited that people are starting to see the nexus between issues. For example, take climate change. Many people are now realizing that climate change leads to land grabs, which triggers conflict, oftentimes with associated atrocities and human rights abuses, potentially leading to destabilization of a region. Follow this path, and it leads you to power vacuums, increase in militancy, and so on. It’s all connected. It’s exciting to see those bridges being made when even 10 years ago there were little to none in existence. And it’s exciting to see funder affinity groups using those connections to do something different and do it together.

What resources, networks, and organizations should philanthropists know about?

Sally: Definitely the Nexus Global Youth Summit. There is a beauty in the passion, the energy, and innovation that young donors bring to the table. It’s a great place for young philanthropists to connect with other change makers, become inspired, and combat the isolation that can come with being separated from your peers geographically.

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What’s Different With a Focus?

By Johanna Edens Anderson, The Belk Foundation

Five years ago, The Belk Foundation looked very different than it does today. When I was asked to come on as the foundation’s first full-time director, the objective from the board was clear: help us connect this 80-plus-year-old foundation more fully into the community, so that we may better understand the impact of our grantmaking.

But how does one start that process? Thankfully, the foundation had some elements in its favor. A new, committed board chair brought fresh energy to take the foundation into the 21st century. Decades of investing in the community provided lessons on which to draw. And concepts such as “core values” and “key messages” were central to this multigenerational retail family. (Belk, Inc., headquartered in Charlotte, is the nation’s largest family owned and operated department store company.)

That being said, our work still felt daunting. Over its long history, the foundation did its best answering many calls in the community, but, over time, trying to be everything to everyone left few satisfied. Without a focused mission, virtually every nonprofit in the Southeast could make a good case for funding – a reason that kept the board from accepting unsolicited proposals or being vocal about its funding. At one point, I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation: If every nonprofit that qualified for funding called for a 5-minute conversation, I would be on the phone for 8 years!

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Program Notes: Wise To Be Mindful, Unwise To Be Fearful

By Lauren Kotkin, Exponent Philanthropy

This year is showing to be another good one in the markets, said U.S. Trust Bank of America’s Steve Campisi on the August 12 Quarterly Market Update for Philanthropy conference call, provided that, as an investor, you maintained your discipline. Read the Q2 Market Update

With an improving economy, what advice does a market observer offer? Steve put it simply: “It’s wise to be mindful, unwise to be fearful.”

Wise to be mindful. Pay attention to the markets. If you’re below your long-term target weighting in a particular asset class, or not yet investing, now is a good time to increase diversification – when assets you need are “on sale.” There are currently opportunities in asset classes such as commodities, which can help guard against inflation and other market variability.

Unwise to be fearful. Don’t be afraid of risk. Instead, understand risk and manage it effectively. Within a portfolio there will always be pockets that give you cause for concern. Making small shifts in assets will affect your ability to deploy capital (make grants!) effectively.

What this looks like. A typical portfolio may have 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. Among Exponent Philanthropy members, the typical portfolio is more diversified, averaging a little under 50% in domestic stocks and 24% in fixed income, with the reminder spread among foreign stocks, alternatives, cash/cash equivalents, and other. See member data in the 2013 Foundation Operations & Management Report 

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Taking Local Funder Collaboration Statewide: Lessons From the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

By Leslie Boissiere, The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

When the Belk Foundation wanted to magnify its investment in early literacy, the family foundation joined the Georgia Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a statewide initiative that unites philanthropy with nonprofits and government agencies.

When the Iowa West Foundation wanted to expand the impact of its early reading work in Council Bluffs, the community foundation joined with the Iowa Council on Foundations Education Funders Network for a statewide collaboration.

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation joined a funders network promoting third-grade reading in Oakland, CA, which is now spurring action across the state.

These three small foundations are among dozens of local funders connected to a nationwide movement known as the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which pulls together philanthropy in a truly original way. Rather than focus on a topic or a region, the GLR Campaign asks foundations to join in achieving a single result: increasing the number of low-income children who read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Right now, four-fifths of children from low-income families have not mastered reading by that point, leaving them struggling to read in the later grades. These are the students who are less likely to finish high school and find the kind of job that can pull them out of poverty.

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Have You Heard of the Sammies?

By Lauren Kotkin, Exponent Philanthropy

Most people know the Emmys, Tonys, and Grammys, but have you heard of the Sammies, the “Oscars of government service”?

According to the Partnership for Public Service, the organization that administers the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, the medals are given to “outstanding federal employees who have made a significant difference in the lives of Americans.” It’s fascinating to learn about this year’s Sammie finalists, the work they are doing, and what inspires them to public service.

Given that some 14% of the DC-metro area workforce are federal employees (surprisingly, only the fourth most concentrated of U.S. metro areas), most DC-area residents know at least a person or two who works for the government. I’m not alone in knowing several: a senior grant manager at the IMLS, economist at the ERS, educator at SAAM, statistician at the GAO, attorney at the DOL, managing director at OPIC, and, of course, the familiar face at my neighborhood USPS. It is my own alphabet soup of friends and acquaintances.

At Exponent Philanthropy’s upcoming 2014 National Conference, October 30 – November 1 in Washington, DC, we’ve asked colleagues at Grantmakers for Education, Grantmakers In Health, Grantmakers in the Arts, and Environmental Grantmakers Association (GFE, GIH, GIA, and EGA, respectively – our own philanthropic alphabet soup!) to invite federal colleagues with whom they and their members have emerging or established relationships to join us for topical learning labs on Engaging With Government.

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The Fiduciary Standard in Investment Management—Why Is It So Important?

By Peter J. Klein, CFA, CRPS, Klein Wealth Management at HighTower Advisors

Financial advisors who work with investment committees of foundations, endowments, and other philanthropic entities find the fiduciary standard an important component of their work. But many are actually not fiduciaries. In fact, the Dodd–Frank legislation of 2010 required the SEC to study the fiduciary standard, because there is a good deal of confusion among investors as to what it really means.

Why is the fiduciary standard such an important area of discussion? What does it mean for the portfolio and the ultimate outcome for the charitable entity? To demystify this issue and provide a glide-path to charitable boards who are making important decisions about the advisors mandated to watch the organization’s most important asset—its portfolio, let’s begin with a definition:

Fiduciary: an individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money; the relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another’s benefit

This appears to be a simple principle, and most readers might be thinking, “I already have a fiduciary managing my foundation’s portfolio, right?” But do you?

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8 Organizations Developing Young, Social-Minded Leaders

By Stephen Alexander, Exponent Philanthropy

The Talent Philanthropy Project recently wrote a blog post about funders who invest in nonprofit leadership. Among the nine funders identified as leaders in this area were two Exponent Philanthropy members (Community Memorial Foundation and Meyer Foundation) and several partners.

This article got me wondering: What nonprofits in the social sector are developing and supporting talented, social-minded Millennials and Gen Z’ers? What organizations should be on the radar of these funders and others like them?

To start, here are 8 programs and networks investing in young leaders. They are inclusive, accessible, and pushing participants to think big about the future.

  1. Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) – A national network with 12 chapters, EPIP works to develop leaders committed to building a just, equitable, and sustainable society. Chapters provide local learning and networking opportunities, and the national arm builds a voice for a generation aimed at transforming philanthropy.
  1. Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders (Aspen Institute) – This program aims to provide nonprofit leaders with the tools and perspectives necessary for effective, enlightened leadership. Participants are given the opportunity to move beyond daily operational concerns to take time for the “blue sky” thinking and exploration of core values that animate their work and inspire them to become more effective, innovative, and inspiring leaders.
  1. Net Impact – Net Impact is a worldwide network with over 300 chapters and 50,000 student and professional members. They provide the network and resources to inspire emerging leaders to build successful “impact careers” – either by working in jobs dedicated to change or by bringing a social and environmental lens to traditional business roles.

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The Pulse: Economic Hardship, Courage to Adjust Course

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   

Working Americans Struggle to Earn a Living

Recent articles spotlight continuing economic hardship faced by millions of working Americans, including nonprofit employees, and the forces responsible. Key trends include the high cost of housing and health care, low wages, and lack of income growth in recent decades. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, median income for working-age households (headed by someone under age 65) slid 12.4% from 2000 to 2011, to $55,640.

I highlight two articles:

  • The San Francisco Chronicle profiles the impact on nonprofits of steep increases in the city’s real estate costs, which makes rents difficult to afford for employees and their organizations. The squeeze has fueled demonstrations by nonprofits and their supporters at City Hall and City Council meetings. Protesters point out that the mayor’s proposed increase in allocations for nonprofits is less than the increase for city workers, and call upon the city, which relies on nonprofits to deliver crucial human services, to increase its allocations. Journalist Marisa Lagos writes, “nonprofits and their workers have seen little increase in the amount of money they get from the city—just 5% since 2007. From 2007 to 2012, there were no increases, and many have had to cut staff or services to stay solvent.” One nonprofit that offers housing, counseling, and other services to people with chronic mental health problems has seen rent hikes as high as 135% at some of its buildings.
  • The New York Times highlights a newer challenge for American workers–businesses’ use of computer scheduling models to increase staffing efficiency and reduce labor costs. The computer models disrupt regular work schedules, making it more difficult for parents to align work with their children’s daycare and school schedules. Journalist Jodi Kantor follows Jannette Navarro, a single mother in San Diego who struggles to support herself and her 4-year son on a $9-an-hour job. Ms. Navarro’s work schedule is cut into continually changing, irregular slices, forcing her to improvise her son’s daily care, and preventing her progress toward an associate degree in business. Writes Kantor, “Like increasing numbers of low-income mothers and fathers, Ms. Navarro is at the center of a new collision that pits sophisticated workplace technology against some fundamental requirements of parenting, with particularly harsh consequences for poor single mothers.”

A Nonprofit Shares Its Data and Improves Its Field

Continual innovation in technology offers new opportunities for funders and nonprofits to use data to make smart decisions. As thought leaders like Lucy Bernholz have pointed out, one promising use of data is for nonprofits and foundations to share their evaluation and research data publicly to increase effectiveness for all.

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