BLOG POSTS

Philanthropy Daily Digest 10/08/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Philanthropy Daily Digest 10/06/2011

  • New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote a provocative article about the limits of empathy that focused on how empathy doesn’t drive action, moral codes drive action. In this post, the editor of the Greater Good blog pushes back, saying that “Empathy without a moral code is futile. But a code without empathy is dangerous.”

    tags: philanthropy

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Philanthropy Daily Digest 10/05/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

An Idea That Spreads: Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance

I’ve written a number of times about the tension between logic and empathy. I think it is critical that the effective philanthropy movement recognize that while data is an important input to good decision making, it can also dampen the very emotions that drive giving. That’s why I think it is critical that high performing organizations learn how to tell authentic stories about their impact. Stories that are based on solid data about what works, but which respect the role of emotion in the field of philanthropy.

Kiva is an organization that I’ve held up in the past as really understanding how to tell an authentic story that “sticks” (in the vocabulary of the must-read book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die). The point of Made to Stick is that a good story is true, but it must also be told in such a way that it spreads. Too often I worry that the effective philanthropy movement is convinced that if they can just find the “truth” about what works, the rest will take care of itself. But I don’t think that’s enough. We need to discover the “truth” about what works and learn how to tell the story of that “truth” in a way that spreads.

Here is a new video by Kiva. The video presents data about the increasing level of microfinance loans made by the organization over time. But this ain’t no Excel graph…

(click here to watch the video if you’re viewing this in an email)

Wow.

This data is just as “true” as a simple chart like this one (which actual does represent Kiva’s loan growth from early 2006 through late 2007):

Kiva Loan Growth

In the book Made to Stick, the authors talk about how a group of food scientists spent a long time telling people about how much fat was in movie popcorn. But it wasn’t until they figured out how to tell the story of how bad movie popcorn was for you through laying out a table top covered with bacon, eggs and cake to demonstrate how much fat was in the product that people started paying attention.

First we need to figure out what works. Then we need to figure how to communicate the story about what works in a way that drives people to action. Too often, “effective philanthropy” is obsessed with the first step and ignores the second. Too often, successful fundraising is done with the second step in mind while the first is ignored.

What we need is storytelling for impact that drives people to take action in service of programs that work.

Extended Registration for GuideStar Webinar

Last week, I posted a note about the GuideStar webinar I’m doing tomorrow, October 5. The registration response has been overwhelming and GuideStar hit their 1,300 person registration limit on the same day that I let readers know about the event. Since a number of Tactical Philanthropy readers have asked if there is a way for them to attend, GuideStar has agreed to open up a series of additional registration slots for my readers.

If you’re interested, just shoot me an email.

Details for the webinar on October 5 at 2pm eastern:

The Second Great Wave of Philanthropy

Yesterday: Andrew Carnegie. John D. Rockefeller. Andrew W. Mellon.
Today: Bill Gates. Oprah Winfrey. You? Your neighbor?

Today’s major donors don’t look like yesterday’s major donors. And today’s major donors don’t look at nonprofits the same way, either. Join us as Sean Stannard-Stockton—wealth advisor to philanthropic families, author of the influential blog Tactical Philanthropy, and Chronicle of Philanthropy columnist—speaks about the Second Great Wave of Philanthropy and how major donors are shifting their perspectives on the kinds of nonprofits they want to support.

What Metrics Don’t Tell Us About Effectiveness

This is a guest post by William Schambra, director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute.

By William Schambra

This year marks the 15th anniversary of federal welfare reform. Foundations were extremely active in that major policy initiative, and we can learn a great deal about what makes philanthropy effective from a look back at that time.

Reform meant dismantling a long-standing federal entitlement to support for dependent families, replacing it with a state-based, time-limited program. Wisconsin led the way in the state-level experimentation preceding national legislation, with considerable support from Milwaukee’s Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. That state’s new program, Wisconsin Works, emphasized job placement almost exclusively, backed by generous child care and state insurance programs.

As a Bradley program officer at the time, I was struck by the fact that metrics – in spite of the fact that every last detail of the program was measured, mapped, and monitored –didn’t tell us much about the program’s effectiveness. The one question metrics couldn’t answer was the one question for which we typically consider them essential: did the program work or not?

For conservatives, the numbers said yes, it works, because the welfare roles plummeted. For liberals, the numbers said no, it doesn’t, because the program didn’t lift many families out of poverty. The numbers simply became another weapon in a larger political struggle. The debate about effectiveness finally turned more on moral and political opinions about the meaning of “works” than on measureable outcomes.

That larger political struggle, which might seem to be an obstacle to reform, in fact was a major positive contribution to its effectiveness.

As a conservative foundation in a liberal city and state, we knew that every feature of our involvement would be scrutinized with a harshly critical eye. Bradley’s critics were numerous, vociferous, and uncowed by our endowment. There would be no easy praise, no adulatory newspaper editorials that foundations typically expect for their grants.

However soothing such automatic public applause can be it, it can also lull foundations into inadequately examined assumptions and mediocre performance. Vigorous criticism, on the other hand – as unfair and tendentious as some of it seemed — concentrated our attention wonderfully, leading us to think through every aspect of our involvement in reform with extreme care.

Our involvement was also served well by the fact that it was undertaken in our own backyard. The low-income communities affected by reform were fewer than five miles from the doorstep of our headquarters. We had come to know them well, because we had long befriended and funded an array of local, grassroots, faith-based groups embedded in those communities. We were confident that they would serve as a backstop for the state program, providing emergency food, housing and training for those who might not be ready to enter the workforce. We could also count on accurate information from them about the real-world, street-level impact of the program on their clients.

But working in our own backyard meant that, unlike so many social “experiments” launched by foundations in far-away inner cities, there would be no quiet folding of the tents and fading into the night if things turned out poorly. These were our neighbors, they knew where we lived, and they would hold us accountable. This, too, helped concentrate our attention and imbued us with a serious sense of responsibility for the outcomes.

The lessons of Bradley’s involvement in welfare reform were the reverse of what might have been expected. Metrics, the heart of social scientific calibration, have long been understood to be the key to successful policy reform. They are supposed to lift policy discussion out of the bitterly contested realm of political values and local, subjective viewpoints, and put it on the serene plateau of indisputable, objective, universal facts.

No such thing had happened in Wisconsin. Metrics were subsumed into the local political debate rather than the other way around. And a vigorous, face-to-face, fiercely partisan contest about the meaning of “what works” held Bradley accountable to its own community for concrete results, in a way that abstract measurement never could.

Unhappily, many foundations today believe that “effectiveness” requires detachment from immediate, hands-on engagement in the civic life of their own local communities, and tie their grantmaking instead to ever more elaborate, arcane, abstract theories and models. They’ll end up with numbers aplenty. But they still won’t be able to answer the question, “what works?”

Boosting the Economy Through Charitable Tax Deduction Innovation

This is a guest post by Robert Egger, the founder of DC Central Kitchen.

By Robert Egger

On September 10th, the DC Central Kitchen, which I founded 22 years ago, received a huge honor; the First Family came to work side by side with staff to help prepare 4,000 meals for our shared community.

Truth be told, it was a great day. For staff, the majority of whom are former addicts or felons, being able to work closely and speak directly with the President was an honor few could have imagined a few years back, when they were scrounging for money to get high, or just trying their best to stay alive inside prison.

For other members of our team, being able to speak to the First Lady about our school food program, which provides locally sourced, cook from scratch meals for students at DC public schools was an unbelievable opportunity to offer practical, ground-level advice about turning school cafeterias into learning labs for math, science and nutrition.

But for me, it was a bittersweet visit. Why? Because it took place just two days after the President spoke to Congress and the country about the national imperative to create jobs, and in the last 5 months, the Kitchen’s social enterprise businesses have created 50 new jobs, with great starting pay and full benefits.

This visit offered the President a historic opportunity, at this critical economic juncture, to reframe the entire discussion about job creation and introduce the notion that there is actually profit in America’s economically essential, nonprofit sector. But instead, he spoke of service. A powerful, important and deeply American concept….but what a missed opportunity!!

The Kitchen is not unique. We are but one of thousands of social enterprises that are creating wealth while also decreasing demand for traditional charity via our empowerment programs. But, like all “charities” in America, we are viewed through the limited lens of being a “.org”… a “non” profit.

Imagine a new model.

Imagine the President standing before the press and suggesting that Congress explore a return on investment formula for programs like DC Central Kitchen, so that every donor could potentially see an annual and increasing tax deduction if the organization they contributed too could verify economic growth, new jobs or the decreased need for public spending. Imagine how that might spur innovation within the sector, while also generating ways in which people could attain wealth by investing in their communities. And not just wealthy philanthropists, but everyday people who have an equal interest in paying lower taxes, having a good paying job, living in a healthier communities and supporting businesses that, by their very nature, re-invest profit back in the community.

America is no longer a manufacturing economy, with jobs for all. Nor do we produce enough “extra” money to support an unlimited number of charities. Therefore, we must begin to let go of attitudes, ideas and tax policies that rely on the incomes and opportunities of a by-gone era.

For my money, the first thing to go should be the notion that job creation is limited to .com businesses while .org charities do good deeds and provide services.

There is a brave new economy coming, where philanthropy is more about how you make or where spend your money, not the check you write at the end of the year. It will be driven in part by American consumers who will demand both transparency and social impact for the businesses they choose to support.

But it will also rely a new generation of business people who seek satisfaction not through a trip to a “soup kitchen” to serve, but by going to work every day at a business that makes the community and the planet cleaner, safer and stronger. To get there, we need leaders who aren’t confined to antiquated notions of “dots” that divide resources or limit opportunity. The future has no dots; only bold new ways of making, earning and investing dollars in ways that strengthen our country – one community at a time.

And the first candidate that offers that kind of leadership will have my vote, and every vote I can muster.

Philanthropy Daily Digest 09/30/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sean Stannard-Stockton’s GuideStar Webinar

On October 5th at 2pm eastern, I’ll be leading a free webinar for GuideStar.

The Second Great Wave of Philanthropy

Yesterday: Andrew Carnegie. John D. Rockefeller. Andrew W. Mellon.
Today: Bill Gates. Oprah Winfrey. You? Your neighbor?

Today’s major donors don’t look like yesterday’s major donors. And today’s major donors don’t look at nonprofits the same way, either. Join us as Sean Stannard-Stockton—wealth advisor to philanthropic families, author of the influential blog Tactical Philanthropy, and Chronicle of Philanthropy columnist—speaks about the Second Great Wave of Philanthropy and how major donors are shifting their perspectives on the kinds of nonprofits they want to support.

Click here to register or learn more. The last GuideStar webinar I hosted was one of their top draws ever with over 1,000 people registering. So register now if you want to make sure you get a spot!

Philanthropy Daily Digest 09/28/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.