Our donors are “doers” who want their philanthropy to reflect their own style and personality. We bring the combination of business experience and first hand understanding of the social sector to make it all work smoothly… for the philanthropist and the community.
The tragic events of Newtown still weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of so many of us this holiday season. In response, the Philanthropy News Digest published a list of groups with a track record of working on mental health issues and services for youth that is worth consulting here.
In the same blog post they highlighted a collection of reports about gun violence in America prepared by the Foundation Center´s Issue Lab. A report by the nonpartisan Grassroots coalition Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence heads the list. They have been a vocal and tireless advocate for reducing gun violence. A visit to their site starts make clear the magnitude of the issue …. as I write their counter of people shot in America in 2012 is at 97,343… 143 so far today, at noon on a Wednesday.
If your family wants to reach out instead to the families of Newtown themselves, here are groups working in Connecticut recommended by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy. (See the full blog post here):
May 2013 be a year of more peace and less violence.
Knowing the answers to a few basic questions can boost your confidence that you’re making a good choice. In our experience, the most effective organizations make it easy to answer:
What are they trying to achieve? Short-term and long-term. Is the organization meeting a real and pressing need? Is their vision clear? Realistic? Is their vision ambitious enough for you? Are their goals consistent with the organization’s mission? Do you get excited about their goals?
Does their approach make sense? At the very least! Is the organization’s approach logical for the context in which it’s working? Do they factor in local realities and the perspectives of their beneficiaries? Does their approach promise significant or potential impact relative the resources they spend? Do they take advantage of the progress and lessons learned by others in the field (nonprofits, government programs, private companies, etc.).
What evidence suggests the initiative will be successful? How does the nonprofit know if it’s making progress toward its goals? How does it evaluate itself? What data have they tracked in the past? What mechanisms do they have for adapting their strategies as they learn? What types of research or evaluation do other funders use to make the case for supporting the organization?
Do you trust the organization’s leaders? Both the board and staff? This is an essential question for Angel and VC investors – and it should be for folks making grant “investments” as well. Vision and good intentions aren’t enough. Ideas and strategy are only as good as the team that executes on them. How do others in their field view these leaders? How are they seen by their own teams? What have they demonstrated they can accomplish?
Will the organization have the resources to reach its goals? Your donation or grant is an “investment” to accomplish a result in the future, so you need to have faith in the organization’s current and future financial picture. Equally important, as external factors change, will the organization be able to count on the other actors it needs to get the job done, the community, other nonprofit or government partners or beneficiaries?
Sometimes these questions are easy to answer. Sometimes other funders with experience in the specific topic or community provide key insights. Other times a third-party acting on behalf of a donor, anonymous or named, can learn more. And sometimes donors decide to fund projects despite not having the answers to all of these questions… because it’s a process of getting to know an organization.
In the spirit of Socrates… there’s no right answer but it’s worth asking the questions.
Giving can take many forms. We help our clients apply the right tools for what they want to accomplish: grants, loans, philanthropic equity, investments in social purpose companies, social impact bonds, microfinance investments, etc.
The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek work meaning “love for humankind”. Our definition of philanthropy is as broad as our clients’ intentions to help others without expecting anything in exchange. It includes both donations and impact investments.
The most traditional form of philanthropy is a donation given to a nonprofit entity. Although that money is never returned to the donor (as long as the nonprofit meets the conditions of the gift), the nonprofit can either use a donation to fund its current programs or invest it in an endowment or in activities which meet the organization’s mission, such as loans to a micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world, and enable the organization to “recycle” the donor’s gift , using it multiple times. More and more, thoughtful donors think of their donations as “investments” which, over time, should accomplish “a return” for society even though they are not investments which generate a financial return to the donor.
Impact investments are financial investments designed to generate both social impact and a financial return for the investor. Philanthropists expect to see their initial capital paid back, and, in most cases, to receive a financial return on this investment, although the return is often less than the market rate. Millenials are expect to include impact investments in their portfolios. (Read more here)
- Investments in for profit businesses with a primarily social mission (including ones owned by nonprofits)
- Loans to nonprofits (including Community Investment Notes)
- Investments in micro-finance institutions
- Social impact bonds
- Investments in certain community development or fair trade businesses
- Funds that invest exclusively businesses that provide drinking water, clear energy, etc.
Read Harvard Business School’s “The Promise of Impact Investing” and our interview with an Impact Investment pioneer, Spotlight on George Overholser – Social Impact Bonds and Philanthropic Equity.
The other day a small bronze plaque in the brick of our town’s modest (and wonderful) Waterville Public Library stopped me in my tracks. The plaque read ‘This building is a gift of Andrew Carnegie to the City of Waterville, AD 1905’. ‘107 years later’, I thought, ‘in an era of Kindles and games on telephones, here’s my son, skipping along happily because he just picked out five easy readers from the library shelves.’ Carnegie’s gift of 1,689 free public libraries across the US still fosters education and opportunities today.
Barcelona’s magnificent concert hall, the Palau Música Catalana, would not have been built without gifts from wealthy industrialists who added to the money collected by Barcelona’s citizens in 1908. After 104 years, more than half a million people annually still enjoy performances beneath the stained glass skylight of the exuberant modernista-style hall.
What makes a great gift 100 years later? Read the full post by Kristin Majeska at Latest from Alliance
The unconventional Lady Gaga launched her Born This Way Foundation on February 29th at an extremely traditional venue, Harvard University. In less than a month her foundation has managed to have more than 100,000 people sign an online pledge to support their vision of tolerance and respect for difference among young people, almost all of them undoubtedly members of the foundation´s “target audience”, youth themselves. (They´ve also gotten more than 76,000 Facebook likes and have more than 42,000 twitter followers.)
How can those of us who aren´t pop icons have an equally successful start to our own initiatives?
Focus on a cause that you´re passionate about Lady Gaga´s commitment to bullying is authentic. Her Read More →
by Kristin Majeska
I have to confess. A few months ago I made a donation that just wasn´t that efficient. But I did it with a long-term perspective, to see if I could help my nine-year old son learn a little about philanthropy (and about saving money at the same time!) We contribute to our school´s campaign for the local food bank by going shopping for nonperishable food. I knew perfectly well that the $25 we spent at the supermarket would have bought several times as much food if we had simply written a check to the food panty for the same amount. I knew all the recommendations being made by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy and others (in fact I´ve made the same arguments) a food pantry (or better yet a food bank) can get food at below wholesale prices and at times, almost free, I would not be able to deduct my donation so my gift would be more “expensive”, and the list goes on.
But we all know that values are learned at home. I went to the supermarket to buy food with my son because I wanted him to learn four lessons.
– That there are lots of people who don´t have the money they need to keep from going hungry, much less to buy the food they´d really like to eat. We talked about why and what we can do about it.
– That money disappears very quickly if you´re trying to feed a family on minimum wage. My son kept track of how much we could buy and still stay within our budget of $25
– That you can buy more food for your dollar if you look at the value of what you´re buying. We looked a unit costs. We compared products.
– That everyone deserves healthy food. We brought store brand products but good ones, low in salt, fat and sugar, only products I would serve to my own kids. We bought vegetable and fruit options as well as rice, pasta, tunafish… and we talked about that too.
My son was proud to have helped other families (I know because he even talked about it to the cashier) and the next day, when we left the bags of food at school he said again, “look how much healthy food we got with our money.” He´ll remember those memories. He wouldn´t have remembered for a minute my writing a check. It´s true that not everything that I tried to teach my son at the supermarket had to do with philanthropy but I hope in some way something will sink in which will help him grow to be a good philanthropist and a good person. I let myself give up a little efficiency in the short-term because I´m making a long-term bet. With any luck we´ll see the fruits in a few years!