Mentoring Young Adults in the Youth Philanthropy Movement

By Sammie Holzwarth, Foundant Technologies

At Foundant Technologies—provider of online grants management solutions for grantmakers and grantseekers—we have always been supporters of the youth philanthropy movement. We began as early sponsors and supporters of Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC), a youth-led peer advisory network for young people involved in philanthropy. We attended their conferences and even joined them during their on-the-road events in 2015.

Mark Larimer, our VP of Marketing and Client Success, and I were amazed time and time again at how thoughtful and professional the participating youth, ages 8–21, were at making real granting decisions.

It was on the road in 2015 that Mark and I discussed starting a youth philanthropy project in our hometown of Bozeman, MT. Right away I was excited to be involved and work hands-on with the young adults in our community, helping them learn about our community’s needs and the grantmaking process.

Now, in my second year of our Youth Giving Project, I have some tips for those of you who, like me, may have limited experience mentoring youth. Heck, most days I feel like I’m their age myself! These may seem like simple tips—because they are. A youth philanthropy project should be the product of the participants, not the adults advising them.

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My “Mission Sabbatical” and Why Your Foundation CEO Needs One Too

By Beth Gosch, The Western New York Foundation

I went on “sabbatical”! I was still working every day, but my wonderful board gave me “mission time.” Yes, you heard correctly. I was given 3 months to think about our foundation’s mission, its work, and our processes.

What exactly does this mean? Well, to start, we temporarily closed our online portal and skipped a grantmaking cycle so that I could focus my attention on executive matters like… what are we doing and how are we doing. I’m convinced that other foundations must follow suit, because it is so healthful to a single-staffed organization like mine.

I remember being at a session with a group of executive directors, who had been in their positions 10 years or longer, at a recent Exponent Philanthropy conference. I brought up the topic of “mission time” and asked how my colleagues were devoting the time to give it the attention it deserved. Peoples’ eyes popped, and the conversation was hot! We all talked about it as if it were a utopian concept—great but unattainable. Of course this led to conversation about burn-out and the question about how to re-energize ourselves and our work.

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Our Grantees Increase Visibility by Updating Free GuideStar Profiles

By Gwenn Gebhard, Luther I. Replogle Foundation

As a foundation, it can be difficult to find ways (beyond making grants) to support our grantees and, at the same time, improve their visibility in their communities and the wider world. With this challenge in mind, the foundation’s board of directors and I developed a two-pronged project inspired by a webinar I attended in September 2016.

The webinar was hosted by Foundant Technologies, a grants management software company (and our foundation’s vendor since 2009), and GuideStar, a nonprofit that manages public data on all nonprofits operating in the United States. Working together, Foundant and GuideStar developed software called GuideStar for Grant Applications to pull information from organizations’ GuideStar profiles into Foundant grant processes through web-based links. Keep in mind: Using GuideStar for Grant Applications requires nonprofits to complete their GuideStar profiles, funders to accept the data as a means of populating their grant applications, and software vendors to incorporate the technology into their solutions.

After discovering that only five of our 16 current Washington, DC grantees has developed a GuideStar profile, I decided that assistance could be very useful to them. Further research showed that in Minneapolis, one out of nine of the foundation’s grantees has a GuideStar profile. The story is slightly different in Chicago, where four out of six of our grantees has a GuideStar profile. None of our grantees anywhere has a Platinum profile, and only a few have Gold.

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What Would Hippocrates Do?

By Henry Berman, Exponent Philanthropy

Each quarter, I write to our member donors to pass along insights I gather in my dual role as Exponent Philanthropy member and CEO, and to provide a special window onto our activities. My most recent communication—sent last month—sparked many positive notes in return. I’m pleased to share it here with our broader community, and I encourage each of you to consider supporting Exponent Philanthropy.

In the wake of January’s inauguration, President Trump has quickly demonstrated his commitment to change. I’ve spoken with people across the political spectrum in the funding and nonprofit communities, and many have been uneasy at best in these early months of 2017. Although every administration and new Congress experience growing pains, business as usual is being redefined this year. Wherever you stand politically, change certainly is in the air. 

Amid this year’s changes, I paused in my doctor’s waiting room recently, reading a brochure about new medical school graduates that referenced the Hippocratic Oath’s most famous line: First, do no harm. This triggered my thinking (and online exploring) to learn more about the oath. 

I discovered first that Hippocrates didn’t include the well-known phrase in his oath, but in another of his works, Of the Epidemics; regardless of the source, the message is one that I believe aptly applies to all of us who make grants, share knowledge, convene stakeholders, and otherwise act in pursuit of our philanthropic missions. 

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What Is Behind Great Funder–Nonprofit Relationships?

Often in the complex funder–nonprofit relationship, it seems nonprofits do the asking, reporting, and proving, while donors sit in positions to say yes or no, how much, when, and what’s required. Achieving a different, deeper relationship takes more than just good intentions—it takes flexibility, finesse, and a sincere desire to acknowledge and address the power dynamics at play.

In collaboration with the National Council of Nonprofits, Exponent Philanthropy will gather funders and nonprofits in four locations in the coming months for a half-day of facilitated programming dedicated to helping everyone build better working relationships and increase the impact of their work.

In each location, two pairs of funder and nonprofit partners will share their experiences and help to spark conversations. You can hear from some of the featured speakers below.

Get dates and locations for the upcoming half-day events for funders and nonprofits >>

In your experience, what contributes most to successful funder-grantee relationships?

Wendy Chang (funder, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund): Championing leaders and supporting their personal as well as organizational development. Funder–grantee partnerships are strongest when there is commitment beyond programs—when people, process, and systems matter.

I take pride in having an open door and high level of awareness of the issues confronting our grantee organizations. If every update or discussion with a grantee was just that “everything is fine,” then I couldn’t offer any help or guidance. I find that I am more invested if drawn in by grantees sharing their obstacles or things that may not be working. An opening is created and relationship strengthened when vulnerability is shared.

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Setting a Strategy and Sticking to It

By Elaine Gast Fawcett on behalf of Exponent Philanthropy

Rhonnel Sotelo doesn’t have a favorite childhood book. He wasn’t much of a reader as a child, and only reached third grade reading proficiency in eighth grade. Yet thanks to several caring high school teachers and two UCLA English professors, he was able to turn around his reading capability later in life and passed that love of reading on to his two teenage daughters. Now literacy and public education are his career and personal passion.

As executive director of the Rogers Family Foundation in Oakland, California, Sotelo in partnership with CEO Brian Rogers and team, works to make sure children have opportunities to attend high-quality schools that provide personalized student-centered learning experiences, as well as ensure that students get off to good starts by being able to read on grade level by the end of third grade.

Education, says Sotelo, has always been compelling for the Rogers family. In 2003, after selling the company they owned for 26 years, Dreyers Ice Cream, T. Gary and Kathleen Rogers, along with their four sons, looked at how they could give back to their hometown of Oakland. Certainly there was no shortage of needs: crime, healthcare, housing affordability, and the list goes on. Yet they realized if there was one funding focus that could help all these issues, it was educating children.

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Data for Decision Making: KIDS COUNT Data Center

Exponent Philanthropy thanks the Annie E. Casey Foundation for partnering to deliver a 3-part “Improving Outcomes for Children & Families” webinar series. This post is based on one part of the series: Data for Decision Making: KIDS COUNT Data Center. View the 90-minute webinar on using data to inform grantmaking and advocacy >>

Did you know there is a free, online resource where you can access hundreds of indicators, download data, and create reports and graphics that support smart decisions about children and families?

It’s called the KIDS COUNT Data Center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) since 1990, and it is the premier source for data on child and family well-being in the United States.

The KIDS COUNT Data Center includes more than 4 million searchable data points, according to Laura Speer, AECF associate director for policy reform and advocacy, and can be used to generate maps and graphics to include in your presentations or post to social media.

For example, do you want to know how many fourth-graders are below proficient in reading in your state? The Data Center is searchable by location (e.g., state, county, city, congressional district), topic (e.g., economic well-being, education, health), and characteristic (race and ethnicity, age, family nativity).

In addition to including data from the most trusted national resources, the KIDS COUNT Data Center draws from more than 50 KIDS COUNT state organizations that provide state and local data, as well publications providing insights into trends affecting child and family well-being.

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Giving Globally: When to Go Big & When to Go Small

By Rebecca Miller, The Philanthropic Initiative, an Exponent Philanthropy Professional Partner

Originally appeared on TPI’s Deep Social Impact blog (August 3, 2016)

The recent USA Giving Report shared the good news that last year there was an increase in international giving stemming from the U.S. However, many people still see barriers to global giving.

Those obstacles include the fear of corruption and dollars being wasted, the inability to directly see the impact of philanthropy done abroad, or the obvious needs we all see right here in own backyard. When donors do consider international giving, they can be stymied by which organizations to fund and by which approach to international giving will have the greatest impact.

In our work at TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy, we often see clients grapple with the decision to fund larger, international organizations, or to seek out small grassroots organizations; struggling with the right approach may be one of the reasons international giving from the U.S. remains relatively low.

It’s understandable that many donors wrestle with this issue. With so many amazing organizations doing social justice work every day to change the world, how do you think about practicing effective international philanthropy? How do you decide which organizations will achieve the biggest impact with your giving? How can you ensure that there is transparency and accountability by the organization you’re supporting? How do you decide when to go big and when to go small?

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Are You Funding What Works?

Exponent Philanthropy thanks the Annie E. Casey Foundation for partnering to deliver a 3-part “Improving Outcomes for Children & Families” webinar series. This post is based on one part of the series: Evidence Based-Approaches to Grantmaking. View the 90-minute webinar on evidence-based approaches to grantmaking >>

In today’s age of data, measurement, metrics, and evaluation, are you surprised to learn that public systems serving children and families (e.g., health, education, child welfare) have been slow to adopt tested, effective programs on the community and state level?

“Unfortunately, when it comes to improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families, the science of evaluating programs has moved much, much faster than the science of implementing them,” said Suzanne Barnard, director of Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF)’s Evidence-Based Practice Group. “There is a big gap between knowing what works and using what works in practice.”

For example, we know that prevention is key to improving outcomes for children. Tested, effective programs that minimize risk factors (e.g., family conflict, academic failure) and maximize protective factors (e.g., social skills, positive relationships with adults) have been proven to positively affect outcomes over time, and can be embedded into community, school, or family life.

So why does uptake remain low? AECF posed this question to public sector leaders, revealing three barriers to uptake:

  • Not knowing which programs are best for the children being served
  • Needing guidance on implementation
  • Not knowing how to pay for the programs

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Getting Out Into the Community: Identifying Gaps and Leverage Points for Change

By Carol Gallo, The Y.C. Ho/Helen & Michael Change Foundation, and Jenna Wachtmann, Ball Brothers Foundation 

Originally posted to GrantCraft’s blog

scanning-fb-li“It must be so fun to give money away!” It’s a reaction we’ve all heard when we tell people we are staff members or board members of a grantmaking organization. And yes, it is fun…but it’s also hard work. Good grantmaking – as we know – is about far more than reading piles of proposals or signing big checks; it’s about identifying needs, evaluating potential solutions, and thoughtfully employing dollars to make an impact.

At last year’s Exponent Philanthropy National Conference in Chicago, we presented a session with GrantCraft’s Jen Bokoff about doing just this—identifying priority needs and leveraging points for change, whether in a specific geographic region or around a particular issue area. The room was packed with foundation staff and board members interested in practical tips and tricks for “scanning” the landscape in order to inform good grantmaking.

Missed the session? Here are the top ten ideas we presented to fit a variety of timeframes, budgets, and operating styles.

1) Get your boots muddy

As grantmakers, often our best and greatest insights come when we get away from the comfort of our offices. We need to take time to really listen to and experience first-hand the work of those we fund. This is Jenna’s “muddy boots” theory. As a program officer, she keeps a pair of boots on hand that she wears to site visits to nature preserves, construction sites, etc. And they are very muddy! The insights that come from being on-the-ground (literally!) are critical for good grantmaking.

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