The Pulse: Disaster Recovery, Homelessness, Entrepreneurship

By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy 

Every 2 to 3 weeks, I’ll explore trends influencing small-staff philanthropy by spotlighting articles, reports, and essays in the media. I’ll cast a wide net, venturing beyond philanthropy and traditional topics to consider a variety of ideas and events. 

Needed in Philippines: Support for Recovery and Reconstruction

In a Chronicle of Philanthropy interview, President of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy Robert Ottenhoff recommends giving for mid-term and long-term needs. He notes, “… almost all of the money is donated within 2 or 3 months… And yet there are emerging urgent needs… In the Philippines…hundreds of thousands are going to be left without homes, without farms, without other ways for livelihood.”

Are recent big storms a trend? Will they become more frequent? In a November 15 editorial, economist Jeffrey Sachs says yes and calls for action to reduce carbon emissions.

Student Homelessness Hits Record High

The number of homeless students in U.S. public schools is at an all-time high, according to new data from the National Center for Homeless Education. Says policy expert Barbara Duffield, “The recession isn’t over for America’s poorest families. There’s a gap between what jobs are available, what those jobs pay, and what affordable housing is available.”

Ways Donors Can Support Entrepreneurship

As economic growth languishes and unemployment remains high, philanthropists seek to promote economic development in their communities. Donors support employment training, urban development, small business development, tourism, and helping communities develop a shared vision of the future. In May, the Philanthropy Roundtable convened a meeting to explore another avenue of support: nurturing entrepreneurship.

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Celebrating You This National Philanthropy Day

By Henry Berman, ASF

Every day and especially today, on National Philanthropy Day®, we recognize the contributions that philanthropy—and philanthropists like you—are making in communities across the country and around the world.

We particularly salute our nearly 2,500 members who are a powerful force within the philanthropic landscape. You choose to give big while staying small, working with few or no staff to make the most of your resources. You support causes of every kind, create deep relationships, take bold risks, and try new approaches.

Above all, each of you is committed to achieving outsized impact.

The power of small-staff philanthropy

To mark today and celebrate the impact of our members’ giving, we’re launching a Twitter campaign to share stories of #ASFMemberImpact. The campaign will start today and highlight at least one ASF member grantee each day through December 3, the national day for giving back known as Giving Tuesday.

Nominate your grantees, then follow us on Twitter #ASFMemberImpact. Let us spread the word about your good work, and the good work of your grantee partners. Continue reading

Reflections on Impact

By Gerald P. McCarthy, formerly of Virginia Environmental Endowment

Gerald (Jerry) McCarthy recently retired after serving for 36 years as executive director of Virginia Environmental Endowment, a private grantmaking institution whose work focuses on environmental conservation. Jerry participated in Exponent Philanthropy’s Impact Working Group since its creation in 2011, and we asked for his reflections on ways to give big while staying small, working with few or no staff to achieve outsized impact.

Having participated in the Exponent Philanthropy Impact Working Group for several years, I can attest to the value of thinking about and talking about and prioritizing your philanthropic impact. Once you are clear about where and how you want to make a difference—and no, you cannot skip this step—you will be amazed at the opportunities you suddenly see right in front of you.

First, there is more than one way to achieve impact. In simplest terms, impact means making a real difference with the limited funds you have available for the causes you believe in most strongly.

One traditional way to do this, especially at the local level, is to determine which organizations are doing the most good for your community’s quality of life. Find out who they are and support them generously and often. If yours is a general purpose fund, this approach makes a lot of sense. You still have to undertake the due diligence to determine which groups are “the best” at what they do, but, once done, you can invest in them and thereby make a difference in your community.

Another way, for those who are focused on particular fields of interest, involves leveraging your grant funds and your ideas in ways that allow your limited funds to work harder and go further, multiplying the impact they can have.

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Affordable Care Act: What Foundation Employers Need to Know

By Ruth Masterson, Exponent Philanthropy

Do foundations that employ staff need to do anything in response to the new Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Yes! All private foundations (whether family, independent, corporate, company, operating, grantmaking, trust, or corporation) are included with other nonprofits under this law.

All employers must notify employees about the change in law. You should have done this by October 1, 2013—so if you haven’t yet, be sure to act now.

Three other points about the ACA to keep in mind:

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Program Notes: Takeaways on Gen Op, Tactical Investment Moves

By Lauren Kotkin, Exponent Philanthropy

Two recent Exponent Philanthropy programs surfaced some great takeaways. Check out our Educational Programs calendar for upcoming in-person programs, conference calls, and webinars that interest you.

Gen Op: The Disconnect Between Frequency and Amount

Just over 70% of Exponent Philanthropy members gave general operating support grants in 2011. The same year, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) reported that 80% of its members gave general operating grants—but the grants amounted to just 20% of grant dollars.

Why only 20% of grant dollars when nonprofit leaders say these are the most flexible? For at least two reasons, according to our September 17 webinar with co-hosts at GEO:

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Get Out of the Way and Watch the World Change

By King McGlaughon, Foundation Source

Exponent Philanthropy is pleased to feature the first of a multipart series from our colleagues at Foundation Source, a leading provider of comprehensive support services for private foundations. Providing everything from foundation creation to ongoing foundation management, Foundation Source shares our commitment to helping donors maximize their dollars and time. 

For 25 years I’ve been connecting with a range of individuals, families, and institutions changing the world through philanthropy. I’ve been involved at various stages in the philanthropic process: fuzzy urges and philosophical wonderings, deep questioning, getting informed, planning, implementing, developing strategy, and evaluating outcomes.

I am often struck by the sense of liberation and empowerment that inevitably occurs at some point in that process for those engaging the notion of philanthropy and world changing. That’s powerful.

Disappointingly, all too often that liberation and empowerment gives way to a loss of energy, a sense of limitation, and frustration that is just as striking. That’s a shame. Continue reading

Introducing The Pulse, our new series on trends

By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy

Every 2 to 3 weeks, I’ll explore trends influencing small-staff philanthropy by spotlighting articles, reports, and essays in the media. I’ll cast a wide net, venturing beyond philanthropy and traditional topics to consider a variety of ideas and events. Along the way, I’ll look at debates in our field, ideas and innovations, and critiques of philanthropy.

Welcome to The Pulse.

Millennials Will Drive Impact Investments

In a September report, the World Economic Forum predicts significant growth in impact investing in coming years. The Forum cites a recent survey documenting satisfaction by impact investors with their financial, social, and environmental returns. Another driver is the next generation of donors, who will inherit trillions in coming years. Millennials expect business to play an active role in improving society, and have more access than ever before to impact investing information and options.

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Strategic Doesn’t Have To Be a Bad Word

By Sara Beggs, ASF

The fundamental tenets of strategic philanthropy are that funders and their grantees should have clear goals, strategies based on sound theories of change, and robust methods for assessing progress toward their goals.—Paul Brest, former president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and advocate of strategic philanthropy 

Recent debates among philanthropic thought leaders question whether a strategic approach to philanthropy will indeed create the greatest impact. To process and evaluate the criticisms, Janis Reischmann, executive director of Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation and member of ASF’s Impact Working Group, worked through the common critiques. Here’s where she landed.

Critique: When we practice strategic philanthropy, we’re closed to new ideas.

I do think there’s a discipline in practicing strategic philanthropy that requires one to stay the course, but that doesn’t mean that within “the course,” new ideas won’t surface and emerge. Also, if there’s a mechanism in place for getting feedback and making mid-course adjustments, we should be innovating and adding ideas regularly.

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Key Questions for Collaborators

By Hanh Le, Exponent Philanthropy

About two-thirds of Exponent Philanthropy’s members tell us they collaborate with others to learn, strategize, and/or fund together. Members also rank collaboration near the top of topics about which they want to learn more.

Earlier this month, I facilitated a strategy salon on collaboration. Riffing off the world café method, we explored 5 key questions and generated the tips below—thanks to all who participated!

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My Definition of Philanthropic Excellence

By Henry Berman, ASF

“The absence of external accountability is what gives philanthropy its freedom to experiment, take risks, and pursue long-term initiatives on society’s behalf. At the same time, it also means that if you do not demand excellence of yourself, no one else will require it of you.” –authors of Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results

In philanthropy, what is, and how do we define, excellence?

Earlier this month, in my opening remarks to more than 300 ASF members and colleagues at CONNECT, ASF’s 3-day conference for small-staff philanthropy, I suggested that four components are key to excellence in giving:

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