2021: When moments come and go

We just published our final research report for 2021 on the social issues, movements, and causes sparking interest in young Americans (ages 18-30) as reflected by their actions and who influenced their behaviors. We saw three major themes emerge over the course of the year:

a) Digital and out-of-home (OOH) experiences influence awareness and action.

b) Issues and actions remain consistent despite major moments.

c) Mental health is an ongoing concern.

Influence comes through digital and out of home (OOH) experiences

Even as restrictions imposed by the ongoing pandemic continued into 2021, so too did evidence that digital participation in social issues complements but does not replace offline engagement. Our 2021 research shows that calls to action still reach most young Americans through social media platforms, as continually evidenced in newer platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok; however, digital platforms are an “and” and not an “or” medium.

Young people are influenced digitally and in other ways, including what marketers refer to as OOH experiences, even in a pandemic. We also found that moments witnessed firsthand via experiential marketing, billboards, and other exposure influence this age group to take action.

Recommendation: Those working to address social issues must consider both digital and OOH when trying to influence this cohort to act in support of their specific causes. While influencers, content creators, and those with a platform inform and generate awareness, their efforts must be coupled with additional strategies (such as OOH and experiential marketing) to saturate the social issue space enough to influence desired behaviors.

Moments inspire consistent issues and actions

January 1, 2021 brought to a close a year of three major moments destined to change young Americans’ lives forever: the COVID-19 pandemic, the prospect of a new presidency, and a broad-based movement for racial equity and social justice. The surges of engagement fueled by these moments brought about concerns and behaviors in this cohort that largely held fast throughout 2021, even as the spotlights on the issues waned.

Civil rights/racial discrimination/social justice remained in the top three social issues of interest for this age group every quarter, even supplanting the perennial animals/animal rights as the top issue in the winter. Health-related issues (health care, COVID-19, mental health, and gun safety) stayed in the top three. When asked about their involvement in movements, respondents put the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the number-one or -two spots throughout the year; the #HumanRights movement overtook the top spot in the second half of the year, while #BlackLivesMatter dropped to second. Two actions that remained consistent throughout 2021 were signing petitions and donating either goods or services. Posting on social media was popular in the spring, yet in the second half of the year, changing the way they purchased products or services and taking time to learn about a social issue joined petition signing as the most popular.

Recommendation:Whether you’re a corporate, cause, or movement leader, your job is to move the individual through the states of awareness, education, and action. To make this journey consistent and impactful, leaders must understand how best to create content; this means using key trusted messengers who inform and nudge young Americans to take approachable actions that align with the common actions we have seen in the research.

Concern for mental health

The issue of mental health often catches the public’s attention in conjunction with a moment more directly related to another social issue—for example, a school shooting or a celebrity’s untimely death. Our research, however, consistently shows that young Americans remain concerned about mental health even when the many other social issues they care about are the focus.

Our 2021 research reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the mental health of many and strengthened their desire for change. More than 75 percent of respondents said people like themselves should take action related to mental health, and the top reason they gave is chilling: They or someone they know is facing mental health challenges right now.

Recommendation: We cannot assume that young people want to “get back to normal” or “go back to the way things were” when the pandemic abates. For them, those statements mean returning to the pre-pandemic treatment of their mental health challenges. Instead, they want the attention COVID has brought to mental health to translate into a “new normal” where professionals address their mental and physical health together.

What to do next

In the social issue space, a moment is a one-time or short-term concentration of informal or organized actions fueled by cultural, political and/or social events or occurrences that yield a surge of individual participation and public self-organization. We should use moments not merely as jumping-off points or as a means to our own ends but rather as part of a larger ecosystem of social-impact communication and influence. Those who seek attention and influence in a crowded space must realize that once a moment has passed, the issues and memories of the moment will remain.

So, learn everything you can from moments while you have the chance. Remember to look beyond today for information you can use to create approachable, consistent actions tomorrow that will bring individuals into your journey of issue engagement long after the moment is gone.

You can download the report, Influencing Young Americans to Act: 2021 Year in Review, at Cause & Social Influence.

Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, lead researcher at Cause & Social Influence, and the author of The Corporate Social MindRead more by Derrick.

Leave a comment

In Defence of Philanthropy

Does philanthropy really need defending? While never explicitly asked, it’s the question that’s implied throughout Beth Breeze’s treatise In Defence of PhilanthropyYou might wonder why this fundraiser-turned-academic feels the need to state, once and for all, what philanthropy is and what it isn’t, to counter notorious examples of bad apples with the concrete and long-lasting good that philanthropy brings, and to encourage space for more philanthropy, not less, as we look for long-term solutions to ever-greater challenges both local and global.

According to the latest report from Giving USA, Americans—individuals, foundations, and corporations—combined to give away $471 billion in 2020, a 5.1 percent increase over the 2019 total. And if the issues of climate changevaccine development, or supporting historically underserved communities are any measure, philanthropic dollars are doing ever-bolder work. What’s more, even with volunteers staying home in these pandemic times, more people—wealthy or not—are giving more of their treasure than ever before. From that point of view, we just might be living in a golden age of giving.https://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=pndshelf-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1119251117&asins=1788212606&linkId=66bb4f03bf58776b4e735561e9999e90&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

But what of all those headline-grabbing rotten tomatoes hurled at philanthropy—that government tax dollars, not private wealth, should provide basic services; or that philanthropic plutocrats and their vanity are choking the public square; or that philanthropy needs to always be measurable and quantifiable, where in every way the most good must be done for the most people; or that philanthropy without an equity lens is inherently suspect? From the other side of the street, you don’t need to agree with the academic, insider, and populist critiques of Anand GiridharadasDavid Callahan, or Jacobin magazine to feel that something is not quite right. Depending on the day, you should be forgiven for being a little unsure where you stand. That ambivalence, be it public, personal, or professional—is precisely why In Defence of Philanthropy is a welcome addition to the debate.

As director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, Breeze has spent more than a decade exploring the mechanisms that make for successful philanthropy, exploring the how, what, and why of giving. Why do we call individual givers “donors,” reserving “philanthropist” for the millionaire or billionaire? Why do we quietly disparage those who give anonymously and celebrate those who give publicly, then so easily turn on public philanthropy as being self-serving and therefore disingenuous? Why do we mix debates over taxation with the giving of the mega-wealthy? It is nothing new to find fault with how philanthropy is practiced; one need only look to the McCarthy-era challenges to the independence of foundations. But we seem to be in a time of hypercriticism that Breeze suggests will have a long-term generational impact on giving—large and small—unless those denunciations are challenged and answered.

In his 2019 book, Giving Done RightCenter for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan asked many of the same questions raised by Breeze. How do we encourage people, the mega-wealthy and those with just a few extra dollars, to give more, and to give more purposefully? And how do we create a framework that allows the public to see and understand the value of philanthropy alongside larger public policy debates? (Their November 2021 conversation is a welcome synthesis of their thinking.)

Philanthropy is not simply a quick fix for our failure to spend public dollars on needed services. In its best framing, philanthropy is an expression of our values and our desire to improve ourselves, our community, and our society. Philanthropy exists so that we might experiment and find better solutions that, in turn, inform larger efforts to, in effect, repair the world.

Central to Breeze’s defense is the point that it has become all too easy to conflate arguments about inequality, equity, and justice, as though the sole purpose of philanthropy were to eradicate social and political inequities. For those who think that government must provide a more enduring and substantial social safety net, that more tax dollars must be directed to basic services, it is a small step to say that the wealthy need to pay more and it should be compulsory tax dollars, not volunteer philanthropic dollars, that pay the bills. For Breeze, the answer is: Yes, let’s have that conversation about taxes, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Philanthropy is not simply a quick fix for our failure to spend public dollars on needed services. In its best framing, philanthropy is an expression of our values and our desire to improve ourselves, our community, and our society. Philanthropy exists so that we might experiment and find better solutions that, in turn, inform larger efforts to, in effect, repair the world. As for the criticism that philanthropy is ineffective, Breeze counters that any insistence on one framework or one strategy or one outcome is little more than “philanthropic one-upmanship.” In fact, quite the opposite is true; in philanthropy “there is no perfect formula for working out how to be generous.”

The problem is that in our permanently-going-viral public discourse there is no space for nuance: All billionaires become evil, all philanthropy is a tax dodge, and all private funding is a morally bankrupt ploy to reinforce the capitalist system. These maximal claims are sticky, and even when we know not to argue from the specific to the general, it is far too easy to paint with a broad brush. Breeze is deeply concerned by the corrosive nature of these attacks, particularly as they affect future givers. Why engage in philanthropy at all when you run the risk of being tarred and feathered? This may be the golden age of giving, but how long can that last if the image of philanthropy is incessantly being tarnished? And how do we talk about philanthropy in a way that creates a meaningful critique instead of encouraging facile outrage?

Breeze is deeply concerned by the corrosive nature of these attacks, particularly as they affect future givers. Why engage in philanthropy at all when you run the risk of being tarred and feathered?

Breeze’s answer is for anyone who is serious about philanthropy to make a fundamental commitment to being accountable and transparent about philanthropy’s purpose and what it can and cannot do. And that requires improving the practice of philanthropy itself: being more ethical, collaborative, and informed by social, racial, and economic justice processes; being more flexible and less restrictive when it comes to funding; and being more effective by learning from grantees and championing their diversity. None of this will cool the heated rhetoric that stirs our national debates over inequality or racial and social justice, but if well practiced, it might just provide the armor philanthropy needs to flourish. Breeze wants “more people to give, and to give more thoughtfully.” To that end, we need to be prepared to work harder and be willing to push back against criticism that flattens the value of philanthropy and hinders its potential.

Daniel X Matz is foundation web development manager at Candid.

Leave a comment

Rosalind McKenna, Special Advisor, Open Society Foundations

In October 2021, the Global Alliance of Foundations issued an open letter to the leaders of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund calling for measures to ensure a fair and equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their letter, the foundation leaders argued that the pandemic has “divided the world in two.” Wealthy nations in the Global North have broad access to vaccines that not only reduce the number of deaths due to the virus and its variants but also help stave off economic catastrophe. In the Global South, however, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) struggle to gain access to enough of the life-saving vaccines and the funding needed to support their distribution.

The alliance advocated for two primary objectives: to achieve the World Health Organization’s vaccination target of at least 40 percent of the population in LMICs by the end of 2021—a goal that was not met—and 70 percent by mid-2022, and to spur high-income countries to reallocate at least $100 billion in recycled Special Drawing Rights for LMICs and commit to a $100 billion replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association fund in support of pandemic response and economic recovery in the poorest nations.

PND asked Rosalind McKenna, a special advisor to the Open Society Foundations, a founding member of the Global Alliance of Foundations, about vaccine equity and the role that philanthropic organizations must play to help end the disparities while the world works to end the pandemic.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is the Global Alliance of Foundations, and what is its role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic?

Rosalind McKenna: The alliance brings together leading philanthropies from around the world that share the goals of urgently accelerating COVID-19 vaccine access globally and ensuring a global economic recovery. The Aliko Dangote FoundationArchewell FoundationBill & Melinda Gates FoundationChaudhary Foundation in Nepal, Children’s Investment Fund FoundationConrad N. Hilton FoundationFord FoundationFundación Saldarriaga Concha in Colombia, Kagiso Trust in South Africa, Mastercard FoundationMo Ibrahim Foundation, Open Society Foundations, OppGen PhilanthropiesRockefeller Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are some of the foundations collaborating to date, and they are inviting other philanthropies to join their efforts.

These foundations recognize that their voice and impact are stronger together. With their international networks and experience in advancing global health and economic justice and supporting civil society, they can catalyze more funding, identify and address critical gaps, and advocate collectively and strongly for bold, global goals.

Justice means supporting low- and middle-income countries to develop the capacity to make their own vaccines and medicines for COVID and for future pandemics. Justice means ensuring low-income countries benefit from economic stimulus like that which helped wealthy nations weather the economic storm caused by COVID.

Philanthropic leaders recognize the need for structural solutions, not charity, to ensure vaccine justice for countries in the Global South. Justice means supporting low- and middle-income countries to develop the capacity to make their own vaccines and medicines for COVID and for future pandemics. Justice means ensuring low-income countries benefit from economic stimulus like that which helped wealthy nations weather the economic storm caused by COVID.

In addition to the individual efforts of specific foundations, members of the alliance have also collaborated to provide surge funding to advocacy and campaigning efforts like those of the ONE Campaign.

PND: What are the main barriers to improving the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide?

RM: COVID vaccine access is a tale of haves and have-nots. While some countries throw away unused third doses, others have yet to make even first doses available to their people. Inequitable vaccine access is prolonging the global COVID crisis and causing countless preventable deaths.

Solidarity, not charity, will end COVID. We must treat the life-saving tools needed to fight COVID—diagnostics, treatment, and vaccines—as common goods, not instruments of profit and/or nationalism. Successfully addressing vaccine inequity requires multi-tasking to ensure increased vaccine supply, including by supporting intellectual property waivers and other licensing and technology transfer efforts so that whatever capacity exists globally to produce more vaccines is utilized and manufacturers do not artificially limit supplies; more equitable distribution of existing vaccine supplies, including high-income countries fulfilling vaccination donations they have promised to low- and middle-income countries, and low- and middle-income countries being able to buy more vaccines directly from manufacturers; sufficient resources for all countries to procure vaccines, including through pooled mechanisms like COVAX, the pooled mechanism for procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team; and funding to support vaccine deployment, including through multilateral development bank programs. We also need to make sure that vaccine manufacturers and wealthy nations meet their delivery commitments to COVAX.

PND: The world failed to meet the WHO’s goal of vaccinating at least 40 percent of every country’s population by the end of 2021. What role can philanthropy play in improving the prospects of getting more people to get vaccinated? And what kinds of partnerships with governments would be most effective in achieving those goals?

RM: The world missed the WHO target of all countries having vaccinated 40 percent of their populations by the end of [2021]. Sadly, at the current rate of progress, some countries are on course not to hit that target for another decade and beyond.

Caution about the effectiveness of existing vaccines to provide protection to new variants and an increased appetite for booster doses will put further pressure on global vaccine supplies. Ongoing strangulation of the vaccine supply by existing manufacturing suppliers continues to hamper global COVID-19 response efforts. Clearly, the pharmaceutical industry has not learned the lessons of the HIV pandemic and the need to ensure rapid and broad access to life-saving treatments.

Foundations in the alliance have already invested more than $4 billion to respond to the pandemic since early 2020. Individually and together, the foundations are supporting partners, including the ONE Campaign, OxfamPeople’s Vaccine Alliance, and numerous nongovernmental organizations with the deep roots, powerful voices, and local expertise to help bring vaccines to those countries that needed them. They are also engaging global leaders and regional and multilateral institutions to advocate for policies to accelerate vaccine access globally, which would benefit all nations.

Greater political leadership to overcome this pandemic is one of the biggest challenges we face. Foundations are supporting many groups who are working to make the case to governments of the need for effective domestic pandemic response and a solidarity-based global response.

Greater political leadership to overcome this pandemic is one of the biggest challenges we face. Foundations are supporting many groups who are working to make the case to governments of the need for effective domestic pandemic response and a solidarity-based global response. Foundations are also building the capacity of key institutions; for instance, the Mastercard Foundation and the Open Society Foundations are among those providing funding to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen its leadership and ability to support countries in effective COVID response. This includes support to initiatives like the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing.

PND: What have we learned from the Delta variant that can be applied to the Omicron variant? And what should foundations do to help prepare for future variants?

RM: The Omicron variant reinforces that the pandemic is not over anywhere until it is over everywhere. The more the virus can spread, including among unvaccinated populations, the more it can mutate, increasing the risk for everyone and prolonging the pandemic. The greatest measure we can take to prevent future variants is global vaccination, including prioritizing vulnerable populations in the first instance.

The Global Alliance of Foundations will continue to champion global vaccination, working toward the WHO’s target of 70 percent vaccination in 2022. Variants will make it harder to reach that target. All stakeholders, including foundations, governments, multilateral institutions, civil society organizations, the private sector, and the media must work together in the coming year if we are to meet the 70 percent target.

The importance of public health surveillance systems, early warning and transparent sharing of data was also underpinned by the discovery of the Omicron variant. Authorities and governments that highlight scientific developments about the virus must not be penalized for their vigilance.

PND: What makes you hopeful about the prospect of boosting vaccination rates and getting better control of COVID in 2022?

RM: Vaccinating the world is an incredible investment. Lawrence Boone, chief economist for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, recently described the ongoing cost of measures to protect the economy in the pandemic against the cost of global vaccinations as “completely disproportionate.” We cannot continue to ignore evidence of the health, economic, and social costs of this pandemic and what we stand to gain by bringing it to an end.

While the world failed to meet the 40 percent vaccination target in dozens of countries, we did see an increase in the volume of doses supplied through COVAX. In December, 300 million doses were supplied. We need a further ramping up of supplies in 2022 to lift vaccination rates globally.

Also in December, the new Corbevax vaccine was authorized for production using a license from its original developers. It can be manufactured and distributed without the kind of patent restrictions that normally limit production. This is the kind of solidarity that has been missing from vaccine manufacturers so far and which other pharmaceutical companies should follow.

In the first few months of 2022, the Biden administration will convene heads of state for a Global COVID-19 Summit to commit to shared actions to end the pandemic. We need to see bold action by world leaders, vaccine manufacturers, and the private sector to ensure that sufficient doses are produced and fairly allocated, and that we mobilize enough resources to administer them everywhere they are needed. Private philanthropy will play an important role in advancing that agenda and encouraging others to do the same, because COVID anywhere is a threat to people everywhere.

—Matt Sinclair

Leave a comment

Stalling charitable dollars hurts marginalized Angelenos

While our nonprofit, Homeboy Industries, has survived the pandemic through the extraordinary generosity of many people, the societal and economic effects of COVID-19 have made it even harder for individuals who are rebuilding their lives after leaving prison or gang life. As Americans give back during this holiday season, we must direct more resources to charities helping the most marginalized break the systemic cycle of poverty and violence.

According to a 2018 study by the Prison Policy Initiative, formerly incarcerated people are approximately ten times more likely to be homeless than the general public. A 2018 analysis found that the unemployment rate among the formerly incarcerated is over 27 percent, “higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression.”

Here in Los Angeles, Homeboy Industries provides trainees — formerly gang-involved and incarcerated individuals — a second chance to heal, leave gang life, and become contributing members of society. A key element of our success has been our donors and supporters, whose generosity has enabled us to invest in social enterprise programs that not only create good-quality jobs for our trainees but also serve as a vital source of revenue to help advance our mission.

As a former corporate executive and current CEO of Homeboy Industries, I have witnessed the impact of investing in the most marginalized members of our communities and helping them reenter society with the wraparound support they need. Unlocking charitable dollars means more comprehensive mental health services, workforce development programs, housing initiatives, and access to education, among other services critical to meeting those needs and truly making a difference in the lives of thousands of Angelenos. For nonprofits likes ours and many others, it is critical to ensure that charitable funds actually reach nonprofits in a timely manner.

The fact is, however, that tax rules once designed to get resources to charities now facilitate warehousing resources in charitable intermediaries instead. What used to be a simple connection between charitable tax benefits and benefits to charities has been broken.

Through donor-advised funds (DAFs), donors are now afforded upfront charitable tax benefits — with no assurances that the donation will ever reach working charities. Private foundations, which are required to pay out 5 percent of their assets annually for “charitable” expenditures, can now circumvent the intent of this rule by paying the salaries of family members or putting their funds in a DAF. Rather than distributing these resources to charities, private foundations hold $1.1 trillion while $160 billion sit in DAFs, a report from the National Philanthropic Trust finds. According to the California Association of Nonprofits, the state loses more than $340 million each year as a result of deductions related to DAF donations alone. This matters because warehousing these donations means less money and fewer resources for charities on the front lines of tackling society’s compounding issues such as homelessness, climate change, and massive inequality.

The Accelerating Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act, introduced in Congress earlier this year, reforms charitable tax rules to address these inefficiencies that stall the flow of resources to working charities. The legislation imposes reasonable time periods to distribute tax-subsidized DAF funds to nonprofits and closes loopholes that circumvent the intent of the payout requirement for private foundations.

Charitable giving has been and still is a hallmark of our American society. Thankfully, there are many foundations and DAFs providing vital resources to those most in need. They are doing the right thing, while others are using tax laws to shelter their money instead of using it for the common good. I implore lawmakers to restore our charitable tax rules to their original purpose.

Supporting the ACE Act and getting charitable dollars into our communities faster would make a significant difference for the thousands of charities like Homeboy Industries that support individuals in need. Better to do that this holiday season than to be a grinch and stop reasonable updates to charitable giving rules that are fifty years old.

Thomas Vozzo is CEO of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry program in the world. In combination with workforce development and job training in the social enterprise businesses, Homeboy Industries provides healing and alternatives to gang life, while creating more inclusive, safer and healthier communities.

Leave a comment

Why building community power is vital for philanthropy

Why does the country’s largest foundation dedicated to health and health equity care about community power? I get that question a lot when discussing our support of Lead Local, a collaboration funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to advance our understanding of the role community power plays in catalyzing, creating, and sustaining conditions for healthy, equitable communities.

In its nearly fifty-year history, RWJF has long valued and invested in efforts focused on community engagement to improve health. Through our own analysis and evaluation, we’ve come to recognize that community engagement is critical but in and of itself not enough to create systemic and enduring change. We’ve learned that community power can be designed to specifically target the root and structural causes of health inequities — racism, sexism, and classism within the structures and systems that govern our lives. We know what the social determinants of health are, and now we also know that community power-building strategies developed and led by those communities most impacted by structural inequities are critical to addressing all determinants.

RWJF funded Lead Local nearly three years ago to learn what the sector could teach funders like us that are committed to dismantling structural barriers to health such as powerlessness, housing segregation, and lack of access to quality jobs, food, or medical care. The program brought together local, regional, and national leaders with researchers and practitioners from the fields of community organizing, advocacy, public health, and research to explore four key questions:

1. How does building community power offer a roadmap to dismantle the deep structural inequities tied to health, opportunity, race, and place, which have been compounded by COVID-19?

2. How does power catalyze, create, and sustain conditions for healthier communities?

3. How is community power built, and how does it shift over time?

4. How do strategies to build community power go beyond community engagement, and how do we know when community power is being built to demand long-term structural change?

This collaboration illuminated the latest evidence on ways in which community power leads to systemic change. We learned how sixteen cities are building power in low-income, Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color and how grassroots organizations build power to advance health and racial equity. Like in Georgia, where Georgia STAND-UP is among an ecosystem of strong community power-building organizations that are successfully organizing to make housing a human right, improve access to public transportation, and advocate to shift the overall state policy and governing landscape to take seriously the demands of BIPOC communities.

Lead Local concluded that:

  • Community power, defined by leading organizers and researchers in this program, centers on building a base of people most impacted by structural inequities.
  • Relationships, trust, and durability are key to sustaining community power. The most effective community power-building efforts withstand the test of time; even as leaders transition and policy and economic conditions change, community power-building organizations need support to develop and sustain the infrastructure.
  • Community power informs all social determinants of health. Leaders and providers in health care; academic institutions; local, state, and federal government legislators and administrators; and public health advocates should learn how they can partner with groups to advance their long-term agenda and vision for healthy communities.

Their conclusions revolve around one common theme: When those who live in the community and are most affected by inequities organize to drive change, the lives of everyone in the community improves.

That is probably one of the most important distinctions between community power and community engagement. Both center on those affected by a system’s historical and current patterns of exclusion and marginalization; however, community power is driven by a base of people whose presence and voice are sustained and maintained over time and who exercise their power on a range of issues, including voting rights, affordable rental housing, and accessible transit routes.

The recommendations from Lead Local also called on funders working on health and health equity to commit to: 

  • Helping the community power building field grow and take hold through sustained, multiyear, general, and flexible operating support. Philanthropy can invest in building capacity and infrastructure, leadership development, and helping organizations build on existing movements. This means supporting a whole ecosystem of organizations that build constituencies as well as strategic capacity — sharing resources, relationships, and power analyses with one another over time and across campaigns.
  • Organizing or convening actors across the ecosystem of change. This includes policy advocates, researchers, healthcare providers, academic institutions, health systems, and public health organizations that control resources and have decision-making power that can dramatically influence health outcomes.
  • Intentionally engaging other grantees to understand and respect the value of organizing and building a base for its importance to creating change, not only as a means to mobilize people to win on a policy or issue. Philanthropy should work to ensure that organizations with no base-building experience consider their role in lifting up community power-building efforts and avoid appropriating words or actions in a way that negatively impacts a field that is already underfunded.

Before I joined RWJF, I worked as a community organizer with civil rights, climate justice, and labor leaders in communities — people who know well the lessons that Lead Local has helped lift up: Community power building is an art and a science that requires a wide range of capacities to see the visions of communities realized. The science includes qualitative and quantitative measures that help organizers grow a base of people who can take action, while the art includes creative strategies to support people in seeing how their individual struggles are interconnected and part of a larger system that can and should change.

If we truly want healthier communities, funders should provide robust resources to support both the art and the science of organizing and provide organizations the flexibility to learn from both successes and failures. It’s the only way to ensure the enduring, systemic change we all want to see.

Aditi Vaidya is senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Leave a comment

Protecting donor impact by funding cybersecurity

Consider this scenario: A nonprofit organization known for its ability to deliver lifesaving resources mobilizes in response to a natural disaster, but supplies do not arrive as scheduled. Attempts to remedy the situation are thwarted because the organization’s IT systems are inaccessible due to a ransomware attack. What should have been a straightforward solution is suddenly a quagmire that wastes money, costs lives, and tarnishes the organization’s reputation.

Cybersecurity is rarely a priority for those who make generous contributions to charities. Yet cybersecurity is not a nice-to-have feature but an essential risk-reduction effort that protects the donors’ investment in the organization they support, improves its resilience against malicious activity, protects its employees and those they serve, and helps ensure its viability in the face of growing threats.

The scourge of ransomware illustrates the importance of ensuring that nonprofits have adequate cybersecurity resources. For example, ransomware attacks against hospitals are commonplace, putting patients at risk, sometimes gravely soOther nonprofit organizations are not immune from such attacks, and neither are companies that support nonprofits.

Ransomware attacks against nonprofits may seem like an oxymoron, given that they are arguably the least likely to be able to pay exorbitant ransoms. That actually does not matter much. If financial rewards are not immediate — or sufficient — ransomware can quickly become exposé-ware, as sensitive data about the organization and its donors are posted online for all to see.

Moreover, ransomware is just one of numerous ways in which malicious actors can exploit weaknesses in both technology used by nonprofits and the people who work for them. Business Email Compromise — a forged email that leads to the unauthorized disbursement of funds — was responsible for $1.8 billion in losses last year alone.

Cybercrimes of all types work so well because we design, build, and buy information technology with an eye toward functionality, not security. We train people to be responsive and assume good intent. That’s to be expected, because charities are in the helping-people business, not the security business. But there is a great deal nonprofits can do to reduce the risks they face online; there are tools they can use at no cost but the time required to implement them. All modern computer hardware and operating systems have powerful security features built in, and activating some basic security functionality can take whole classes of problems off the table.

Of course, the more sophisticated a nonprofit’s IT infrastructure or dependence on technology, the more likely it is to need additional security technology and expertise. For those who do not track these issues, the cybersecurity industry is in the midst of a talent shortage that is only getting worse. While there are experts who are willing to work for below-market rates if they believe in the organization’s mission, there has to be funding available, period, before a nonprofit can even begin looking for those people.

Too many charitable organizations face serious cybersecurity threats, and too few have the resources to combat them. By funding efforts to improve a nonprofit’s cybersecurity posture, the philanthropic community can help ensure that the organization will be able to continue its mission despite the hostile environments and arduous circumstances they have to operate in, both in the physical world and in cyberspace.

Michael Tanji is chief operating officer at the Global Cyber Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to making the Internet a safer place by reducing cyber risk.

Leave a comment

Renewing nonprofits: Aligning power, money, and vision

In the nonprofit world, power and money can be uncomfortable topics. While we are focused on doing good, questions of power and how it manifests inevitably arise. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced us to confront issues of democracy and justice, has also catalyzed a reckoning across the sector.

Today, most nonprofits have begun to realize that they must “live into” their missions both externally and internally — these concerns are interrelated. For example, while it’s clear that leaders and donors often shape priorities, how power is distributed and decisions are made (including those about compensation) are less widely and openly discussed.

Aligning an organization internally means ensuring that its mission and priorities are reflected in its leadership and governance values. First and foremost, consistency is desirable in any organization. Second, staff and donors are increasingly demanding internal policy changes — calling for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), transparency, and shared decision making — because of a greater awareness of the impact of these interconnected concerns on an organization’s strategies and brand. Finally, equitable internal principles help develop future cohorts of leaders who will continue to advance the organization’s mission, promote DEIB, and strengthen the larger movements of which it is a part.

Yet such alignment has proven elusive for many institutions: There is often a gap between an organization’s stated values and programmatic and internal realities. There are at least three interrelated policy areas that are critical to bridging that gap and creating a humanistic and effective institution where all people thrive. These tangible realities need to be named and recognized.

1. Power, pay, and decision making

An organization where power is held by a diverse group of people, pay is equitable for all, and decision making is transparent is more likely to deliver on its mission effectively. To determine how an organization performs on this value, it is important to conduct a “power analysis” by mapping who holds power, where these individuals are located, and how their power is reflected in decision-making processes and compensation policy. The latter reflects which skills are valued, enables team members to understand how they are being evaluated, and builds belonging.

How decisions are made can also reveal a lot about an organization, including factors related to its impact. Lack of clarity about decision making can result in confusion and lack of trust. Equally important, the lack of transparency around decision making can aid a select group of insiders in retaining power and maintaining the status quo.

Here are some questions that are critical to a power analysis:

  • Who are the members of the board and the executive team? Where are they located? If there are people of color and women in leadership roles, what authority do they have? Within this diverse group, what is the level of turnover, and how are such individuals paid?
  • Who serves in lesser-paid administrative and service roles? What are the characteristics of this group?
  • What training is provided to help staff deepen their skills and advance?
  • How are decisions made? Is there a clear statement on decision-making processes? Is it clear to everyone which decisions are made by the board and the staff?
  • Are decisions made by a small group, or are they made more broadly? If decisions are made by a select set of individuals, who are they, and how diverse are they?
  • Are the communities that benefit from an institution’s mission part of the decision-making process?
  • Is information on compensation structure and policy available to everyone?

2. Money

There are two crucial money issues to consider in a nonprofit: how revenue is generated and how it is spent. A nonprofit with a diverse funding base and a transparent budget process that involves people at every level fosters trust, diversity, a sense of belonging, and teamwork. It also is likely to be more financially stable.

Almost all nonprofits derive at least some revenue from donations. The most common funders include foundations, individuals, high-net-worth donors, and government agencies. It is far more challenging to raise funds from the communities most affected by the problems the nonprofits are working to address. Yet this is where important work needs to be done, because funding from those communities is more likely to reflect realities on the ground, modify a nonprofit’s programmatic priorities, and result in more effective and longer-term strategies for change. In addition, raising funds from impacted communities and their allies can help build the leadership pool of people and stakeholders within those communities.

All organizations have budgets that reflect their priorities. Every team member should understand how budgets are developed and controlled, because such knowledge enhances trust and creates a positive workplace culture. Budgets are also an indication of a nonprofit’s key concerns and can provide a basis for educating all staff about those issues. While nonprofit budgets are almost always approved and monitored by their boards, it is the staff that develops and proposes them. The critical issues here are the degree of inclusiveness in their development and whether the process is generally understood by staff at all levels of the organization.

In money matters, the important questions to consider include:

  • What are the overall characteristics of an institution’s donors? What are their priorities? To what extent are these priorities seen in the nonprofit’s strategies?
  • Who are the organization’s largest funders?
  • By what process was the overall budget developed? Which teams were consulted and which were not? Were all teams able to make resource requests?
  • How does the budgeting process align with the organization’s multiyear priorities?
  • How does the budget reflect the organization’s commitment to, and continued investment in, DEIB?
  • Who has ultimate decision-making authority on the budget proposed by the staff leadership to the board?

3. Vision and program priorities

It is widely recognized that an effective organization translates its mission into program priorities that solve critical challenges. Often, nonprofits have achieved “success” without significant involvement by those most impacted, but such achievements can be short lived. Today, with the benefit of both hindsight and foresight, greater attention is being focused on how an organization is implementing these strategies, because there is a deeper understanding of the need to build the power and voice of those directly impacted. Hence, an organization that seeks to deliver long-lasting political and social change is one that is designed to build and share power, both externally and internally, and to involve those most affected by program planning and execution. These values are often more easily stated than implemented.

When it comes to the core issue of vision and programs, the key questions to ask are:

  • How does an organization articulate why it is advancing a cause? Is the emphasis on helping those in need, or is it on collaborating with impacted communities and sharing power? These distinctions are important, because they reflect whether an organization is learning from the field and committed to the longer term success of the movement.
  • How are the people most affected by the problem involved in the determining program strategies and implementation plans? Are programs designed to help low-income people and marginalized communities who have little or no opportunity to participate in decision making?
  • What plans does the organization have to empower the communities in which it works?

Given that the current global pandemic has heralded change on many fronts, including the future of work, it is ever more important that nonprofits live up to their promise of doing good and addressing the multiple crises we face. Aligning an organization’s mission and priorities to its internal values and operating systems is a challenging and iterative process that depends on a group’s capacity and desire for change, particularly at the leadership level. It requires reflecting on difficult issues. The reality is that institutions today are increasingly composed of people and donors who are scrutinizing existing policies and advocating for change. Aspiring diverse leaders are organizing with allies, speaking up, and seeking reform.

As we enter another year of the pandemic, change is inevitable. Now is the time to shift paradigms and for organizations to embrace living into their values in every way possible. Nonprofits must be able to grow in this manner to usher in a period of recovery and renewal.

Anika Rahman is an advocate for human rights, gender justice, social justice, and climate action who most recently served as chief board relations officer at the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and has held leadership positions at the Center for Reproductive RightsFriends of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the Rainforest Alliance.

Leave a comment

Climate adaptation networks drive resilience and transformation

The challenges local governments and nonprofits face today are almost absurdly daunting. Setting aside the perennial struggle to reconcile ever-growing needs and ever-shrinking budgets, the pandemic has devastated community health and local economies. Then there’s the massive, long-term challenge that exacerbates everything: the unprecedented storms, floods, fires, droughts, and heat waves of a changing climate.

Yet some local government and nonprofit staff charged with preparing for the effects of climate change have found hope—and help—in an unlikely source: their peers in other cities, near and far, in their region, and across the country. And philanthropy is playing an important role in nurturing these connections.

Networks offer a solution

Today, climate change adaptation networks and collaboratives are sprouting across the country, bringing people together for coordinated action and learning to protect human and natural communities.

Climate change is a complex and all-encompassing challenge, which requires innovative, multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral, and cross-government solutions. Climate adaptation networks foster connections among people who might not otherwise cross paths, and serve as structures for building capacity and expertise that enable more effective responses to climate change, from planning to implementing projects on the ground. By investing in these nascent efforts, funders can target their support to the frontline professionals best positioned to build resilience and transformation in response to climate impacts.

In a time when in-person conferences and formal structures are increasingly difficult to maintain, networks are an essential way to connect the ecosystem of practitioners, researchers, and decision makers working in a particular region or on a specific topic. Network members share knowledge and resources and develop coordinated responses to problems—such as flooding—that typically transcend political boundaries and siloed sectors. These networks take many forms, but more often than not, they exist as a flexible, virtual web of communications channels to share real-time information, coupled with structured meetings designed to support relationship building and collective learning.

At the heart of these efforts is an emphasis on building lasting community and developing relationships; this emphasis is what makes this collaborative model unique and impactful in the face of an overwhelming challenge. Having these trusted relationships and pathways to partnerships in place through collaboratives means that network members can be more nimble in figuring out the best adaptation actions to take and responding iteratively as they learn.

Importantly, the qualities that make collaboratives and networks ideal channels for tackling climate change also make them responsive to other emerging crises, including COVID-19. Climate collaboratives are poised to be flexible, since they are founded on principles of adaptive management, allowing these networks to course-correct in real time. While the pandemic has challenged the capacity of adaptation networks, for many it has also fostered a greater sense of community within and across these networks and opened up new opportunities for partnership and collaboration.

Case Study: Resilient Mystic Collaborative

A prime example is the Resilient Mystic Collaborative (RMC), a partnership of twenty communities in a Boston-area watershed working to address climate vulnerabilities like flooding that do not fit neatly within the political demarcations defining cities and towns. The RMC was formed in 2018 by senior municipal staff and Mystic River Watershed Association staff committed to working across political boundaries to address climate change challenges beyond their control. To combat flooding downstream, the RMC analyzed more than 400 parcels of land to determine where creation of stormwater wetlands would most effectively store water upstream. Along with mitigating flooding, these wetlands provide co-benefits to people and nature, such as access to green space and wildlife habitat. Building on this work, the RMC is analyzing places where flooding most severely harms vulnerable communities to identify locally appropriate solutions, such as removing pavement to allow water to filter into the ground.

Going into the pandemic, the RMC already had impressive accomplishments under its belt and a clear focus on social resilience at the core of its practice, as evidenced by its social resiliency work group. This regional collaborative had already strengthened relationships across municipalities so they were well positioned to work together when faced with COVID-19. These partnerships facilitated an initiative for rapid and informed deployment of emergency funding from the Barr Foundation to manage extreme heat in COVID-stricken communities in summer 2020. Critical to the implementation of this pilot program for COVID-safe cooling strategies (such as tree plantings and A/C distribution) was the trust already established among municipal staff, community-based organizations, regional planners, and the RMC convener, the Mystic River Watershed Association.

Philanthropy’s role in network building

Philanthropic partners have played a critical role in enabling transformative change at regional and network scales. Several successful climate collaboratives have gotten off the ground thanks to insightful initial investments by foundation partners who prioritized the value of regional collaboration. Despite their nimble, cooperative nature, these collaboratives require careful stewardship and attention to thrive, which, in turn, requires designating and supporting the staff who facilitate and foster connections and conversations. The RMC was founded with seed funding from the Barr Foundation to support full-time staff facilitation and technical expertise. This relatively small investment has already had an amplified impact, as it has enabled RMC staff to bring in millions in funding for projects, advocate for additional public resources for adaptation, and propose updates to policies to allow for innovative adaptation actions on the ground. When faced with disasters like extreme weather events or the pandemic, philanthropic organizations can leverage these networks—with their durable connections that are ready to respond when crises emerge—to quickly mobilize relief efforts.

Scaling support for networks

While there is much to be done to grow and sustain each adaptation collaborative, supporting individual networks alone is not enough. Network leaders operating in isolation may find themselves struggling—reinventing the wheel and lacking the support needed to succeed in their work. Encouraging peer-to-peer learning and coordination across networks can help address these challenges and build lasting relationships. Initiatives such as the Regional Collaboratives Forum and the Network of Networks Group bring together climate adaptation network leaders to scale lessons learned and promote peer knowledge exchange among networks across the country. These efforts also provide a supportive community of peers, fostering social resilience and camaraderie in the face of overwhelming challenges. This community building can ultimately help make network facilitators more effective and inspired to drive resilience and transformation in their own regions.

Moving forward together

It is clear that the collaboration and partnership building of networks are transforming how our country adapts to a changing climate. These regional adaptation networks foster lasting relationships and build capacity for action, which has become all the more important in a world reshaped by COVID. We are inspired by those in the philanthropic community who have already recognized the potential of adaptation networks and hope to see more partnerships and support for coordination and collaboration. If we are to have any hope of responding and transforming quickly enough to the wicked challenges of climate change, we must come together to share lessons learned and build on each other’s work.

Melissa Ocana is the climate adaptation coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Extension and founder of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP)-affiliated Network of Networks Group.

Leave a comment

NIH Funding Opportunities

Funding Opportunities

Leave a comment

NIH Notices

General Notices

Notice of Changes to Funding Opportunities

Notices of Intent to Publish

Notices of Special Interest

Leave a comment

Community Foundation of Central Illinois invites applications for spring grants

The Community Foundation of Central Illinois is inviting applications for its spring grants.

Grants will be made to organizations with programs serving individuals within a 50-mile radius surrounding the city of Peoria, Illinois, excluding Knox and McLean counties. The foundation is inviting applications for the following opportunities:

Community Arts: Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded within the following categories — arts education, performing arts, musical and cultural activities, sculpture/visual fine arts for display, riverfront enhancement, and art therapy initiatives. 

Arts Mean Business Fund: Supports the generation of economic growth in the Peoria region through arts tourism, increased successful arts businesses, greater community participation in the arts, and financial support of the arts from local governments and economic development councils. Grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded in support of organizations to think big, collaborate with other entities, or even discover the next new and innovative idea in the community that would not otherwise be done without this grant.

Jean M. Ligon Animal Welfare Fund: Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded to organizations focusing on the care and adoption of homeless cats and dogs, for the neutering of both homeless and other such pets, and for the fostering of research and education revolving around adoption and neutering. Preference will be given to such organizations within the Tri-County Area.

Eligible applicants include those with tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, those that operate under a fiscal agent that is a 501(c)(3) organization, and to churches, schools, units of government, or other qualified organizations.

For complete program guidelines and application instructions, see the Community Foundation of Central Illinois website.Link to complete RFP

Leave a comment

Center for Community Progress invites applications for 2022-2023 Community Revitalization Fellowship

The Community Revitalization Fellowship of the Center for Community Progress is a learning opportunity designed to help cohorts of grassroots community leaders revitalize neighborhoods that are struggling with serious challenges related to vacancy, abandonment, and disinvestment. 

Each year, six resident leaders from three communities (eighteen people in total) are selected as fellows. They participate in learning exchanges in each other’s communities that feature a mix of technical and leadership trainings as well as local neighborhood tours. Fellows also develop strategies or projects to improve vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties in their neighborhoods. 

The Community Revitalization Fellowship is designed as an opportunity for participating fellows to gain knowledge about neighborhood stabilization and revitalization strategies, tools, and systems; lead a strategic and impactful revitalization strategy or project; build connections with fellows both within and across participating communities; strengthen relationships with local organizations, elected officials, and other local leaders; and increase effectiveness of resident-led neighborhood interventions and advocacy. The program will better equip fellows to advocate for and lead change that improves vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties through creative placemaking in their neighborhoods. The fellowship will also build the capacity of a key institutional partner in each of the communities to provide ongoing local support to the fellows and their neighborhoods. 

Throughout 2022-23, the Community Revitalization Fellowship will focus on helping residents lead community-based efforts to improve vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties specifically through the practice of creative placemaking. The cohort roles and structure include: 

Institutional Partner — Lead Applicant: Will provide support, mentorship, and logistical help to their community’s cohort of fellows during the application process and, if chosen, over the course of the fellowship. Community foundation, land bank authorities, or any established 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with experience in revitalization and a deep commitment to resident engagement are invited to apply.

Fellows — Grassroots Community Leaders: Each community chosen for CRF will have a cohort of six fellows. This cohort comprises grassroots community leaders representing a diverse range of skills, connections to the community, and neighborhoods across the community.

The program features three learning exchanges for fellows in each of the three cohort communities; a virtual revitalization workshop for a broad group of stakeholders in each community; the opportunity to attend the Community Progress’ Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference, and an award of $10,000 for a creative placemaking project designed by the fellows and $4,000 to support the institutional partners’ leadership in the program.

All organizations and individuals who are considering applying for the 2022-2023 Community Revitalization Fellowship are invited to join an informational webinar about the application process on Thursday, February 3, 2022, 12:00 p.m. EST. The webinar is optional, and registration is required.

For complete program guidelines, application instructions, and to register for the webinar, see the Center for Community Progress website.Link to complete RFP

Leave a comment

Guild of Carillonneurs in North America invites applications for carillon study

The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America supports the development of proficient carillonneurs and encourages the building of new carillons, the improvement of existing installations, and the composition and distribution of carillon music.

To that end, the guild invites applications to the Ronald Barnes Memorial Fund, which was established in 1998 to honor Barnes’s extraordinary contributions to the art of carillon in North America. Grants of up to $13,632 (depending on the number of successful applicants) will be awarded to individuals pursuing studies in North American carillon performance, composition, music history, or instrument design.

For complete program guidelines, application instructions, and information about previous recipients, see the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America website.Link to complete RFP

Leave a comment

Stamps School of Art and Design invites applications for Witt Residency

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan is inviting applications for the Roman J. Witt Residency. 

One residency per academic year will be awarded to a visiting artist/designer to create work in collaboration with the Stamps School community. The Witt resident will receive an honorarium of $20,000 for up to twelve weeks in residence. In addition, the resident is provided with housing, studio space, and up to $5,000 in funding support for project materials.

The Witt residency provides students an alternative learning opportunity to engage with practicing artists who can make use of resources across campus, therefore the ideal candidate must value collaboration, have good social and communication skills, and be interested in generating creative partnerships across disciplines. It is the goal of the Witt residency to foster an atmosphere of inventive creative activity that extends throughout the university community.

The Witt residency is open to both established and emerging artists/designers.

For complete program guidelines and application instructions, see the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design website.Link to complete RFP

Leave a comment

International Center for Journalists invites applications for Burns Fellowship

The International Center for Journalists is inviting applications for its Arthur F. Burns Fellowship program, which will provide talented young U.S., German, and Canadian journalists the opportunity to live and work in each other’s country, with the goal of improving the quality of news coverage in each country and strengthening the transatlantic relationship.

Before individual fellowships begin, all participants are expected to attend a one-week orientation in Washington, D.C., during the last week of July, during which fellows attend meetings with prominent media and government representatives and discuss professional issues. Following the orientation, North American fellows will participate in intensive, two-week language training at institutes in their host cities, while German fellows proceed directly to their host media. Over the next two months, fellows work as temporary staff members at host newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations. In addition to covering local news, fellows report on events for their employers back home while learning more about their host country and its media.

As fellows learn firsthand about their host country and media outlet, they will write stories and produce broadcast programs for both their host and home audiences. When they return home, they will share their experiences with colleagues and continue to cover current events using their new skills, contacts, and a deeper understanding of international relations. 

Fellows will receive a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses during the nine-week-long fellowship in Germany. Participants also receive $1,200 for travel expenses or a travel voucher, and the program pays living expenses during the orientation in Washington, D.C. 

The program is open to U.S., Canadian, and German journalists between the ages of 21 and 40 who are employed by a newspaper, news magazine, broadcast station, news agency or who work freelance and/or online. Applicants must have demonstrated journalistic talent and a strong interest in North American-European affairs and should have two years of professional, full-time journalism experience. German language proficiency is not required but is encouraged.

For complete program guidelines and application instructions, see the International Center for Journalists website.Link to complete RFP

Leave a comment