It’s All Good

It’s All Good

Social Entrepreneurs Are Combining Profit and Purpose

Jennifer Grove

While working in the wedding and event design business, Jennifer Grove often saw expensive flower arrangements get tossed into the garbage after being on display for just a few hours. She started collecting these flowers and handing them out to friends and neighbors. This always brought smiles, but it did not solve the problem that, at the end of the day, most pricey — but still beautiful — bouquets are simply thrown out.

In 2014 Grove founded Repeat Roses, which redistributes flower displays from weddings, galas, and other events to places such as hospices, cancer treatment centers, and homeless shelters. Afterward the reused flowers are collected and composted, helping reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

“For me, as a social entrepreneur, my wish is that this service will actually be a catalyst to inspire people to do other good things,” Grove says. “Maybe they’ll say: I can do something else to make a difference in someone else’s world.”

A growing number of entrepreneurs are combining their businesses with social good initiatives, whether that means protecting the environment, helping more students go to college, or making healthy food more accessible. By incorporating a social mission into their business models, these entrepreneurs are finding ways to give back — and by their example they are encouraging their customers and employees to do the same. Nonprofits, foundations, and investors are realizing the power of social entrepreneurs, and are helping to propel their success.

Grove says that when she works with, for example, a couple planning their wedding, she hopes that reusing their wedding flowers will be the first of many such charitable actions to come out of the marriage. And happily, some of the organizations Repeat Roses has worked with have already been inspired to give back; in one case, a shelter for homeless women told her they are determined to do more to protect the environment and are now conscientious about recycling and composting.

Christine Moseley

Another entrepreneur, Christine Moseley, started her business after becoming frustrated at seeing healthy juices priced at $13/bottle and at the same time learning that businesses discard a lot of great produce simply because it does not look perfect. Moseley founded Full Harvest, which connects farms to food and beverage companies so that growers can sell their “imperfect” (but perfectly good) produce that might otherwise have gone to waste. This lowers food production costs while reducing food waste and making more efficient use of resources like water in the production cycle.

Moseley said that for many reasons a business model made more sense than a nonprofit model, including the fact that Full Harvest is technology-based and technology is expensive. She also wanted to be able to scale up.

“I really wanted to make a big impact and help change the world,” she said. “When you look at some nonprofits — while the work is fantastic, they’re small, local efforts and they’re not fundamentally changing what we do or changing the supply chain. There are a lot of big problems out there and a lot of them can’t be solved in larger scalable ways with a not-for-profit model. So it’s about getting investors instead of grants because you can sometimes do a lot more and faster with that model.”

Grove and Moseley both worked with Project Entrepreneur, an educational program and venture competition that helps women entrepreneurs grow scalable, impactful companies. Since launching in 2015, the program has helped more than 1,800 participants.

“While Project Entrepreneur applicants are not required to have a social mission, every year a significant number among our class are mission-driven start-ups with a double bottom line,” says Jennifer Stybel, executive director of Rent the Runway Foundation, which runs the program in partnership with UBS. “This community of female founders clearly cares about giving back and bakes that into their business models from the beginning.”

Many other foundations and organizations are working to help entrepreneurs. Robin Hood, which fights poverty in New York, in 2015 acquired Blue Ridge Labs, a social impact incubator that works to help entrepreneurs and others build technology products for underserved communities. The Case Foundation is helping create a landscape with investment opportunities that have a social impact, and also works to ensure there are rigorous social benchmarks that can be measured and evaluated.

“We’ll continue to need philanthropy, donors, and capital to help build an ecosystem in which these companies can have a level playing field,” says Rehana Nathoo, the Case Foundation’s vice president of social innovation.

The Case Foundation works on impact investing, which has seen dramatic growth in recent years. Sustainable, responsible, and impact investing assets in the United States grew by 33 percent from 2014 to 2016, to $8.72 trillion. Since social entrepreneurships are in the business of doing good, they can benefit from these investments.

Christopher Gray

Christopher Gray, founder and CEO of Scholly, a mobile and web app that helps students find scholarships, says social entrepreneurships are “the new nonprofit” — and it is likely more donors, investors, and foundations will start to see their potential.

“Social entrepreneurships actually sustain themselves, so I feel like a lot of those philanthropic dollars are going to start moving and more foundations are going to start giving grants to fund social ventures over grassroots nonprofits,” says Gray, who started his business after winning $1.3 million in scholarships himself. Gray, who appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, grew up in poverty in a single-parent household.

Moseley, of Full Harvest, says social entrepreneurs look for many ways to give back, even beyond their business.

“Social entrepreneurs are themselves usually very philanthropic people, and we like to volunteer,” she says, adding that at her business’s two-year anniversary event, they raised money for a local food bank. “We are already doing good with our business model, but because I’m fundamentally a person trying to change the world we live in, I’m always thinking of ways to do this. It’s good on good on good.”

A 2010 Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund study found that entrepreneurs and their companies are more likely to give to charity. Nine out of 10 entrepreneurs said they donate money both personally and through their company, and 70 percent said they also donate their time. More than 60 percent of entrepreneurs said giving back makes their company more successful.

Social entrepreneurs run businesses, but many of them also have a bold vision: to leave the world a better place than how they found it.

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Donating After Disasters

Donating After Disasters

How to Give Responsibly After a Catastrophe

After Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998, some of the donations that came in included prom dresses. When Haiti was hit by a major earthquake in 2010, fertility drugs were among the items received. And back in 1994, following the genocide in Rwanda, gifts included weight loss drinks and chandeliers.

While probably well intentioned, these examples of inappropriate donations are not uncommon after disasters. In their yearning to help, people sometimes do not donate based on what is needed most and what is most efficient.

The recent disasters wreaked by hurricanes Irma, Harvey, Jose and Maria, and an earthquake in Mexico, have led to an outpouring of support from the United States and beyond. While such tragedies almost always create a need for philanthropy, experts say every act of generosity should follow certain guidelines.


Donations of food and clothing pile up in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium’s parking lot. San Diego officials asked for no more donations, having received too much. (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)


The most important one to remember is that cash is usually best.

“What we always say and encourage people to do is cash donations – they are the most efficient way of assistance,” says Safiya Khalid, diaspora outreach specialist at USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). “Unlike material donations, cash involves no transportation cost, no shipping delays or customs. It also enables relief organizations on the ground to spend less time managing goods.”

Money also allows relief workers to buy the most urgently needed items. This is typically done locally, so it also helps boost the local economy, she says. And such purchases are usually financially smart as well. Sending bottled water overseas can be 1,000 times more expensive than producing drinkable water locally, according to CIDI.

Another important factor to consider is the long-term need for funding. Disaster-related giving reached $22.5 billion in 2014, and 73 percent of total funding targeted immediate response and relief efforts, according to the most recent report from the Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. It is worth considering recurring and long-term donations, as funding after a major disaster may be needed for up to 10 years, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Donors and funders should also consider which communities are most affected by disasters, and what can be done to prevent future ones, according to Ryan Schlegel of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

“We must be ready not just to rebuild houses and bridges, but to rebuild the power and elevate the voice of marginalized communities who were disproportionately impacted by the storms,” Schlegel wrote in a recent blog post.

Figuring out where to donate is not always easy. While American Red Cross often tops suggested lists, a 2015 investigation by NPR and ProPublica found a number of problems with the organization’s work following the Haiti earthquake. And in his book “Doing Good Better,” William MacAskill warns that generally speaking, donating to organizations that are best at fighting poverty and preventable diseases such as AIDS and malaria usually leads to greater returns than donating after disasters.


Karl Shaw of Austin sifts through thousands of pounds of donations Tuesday morning, Sept. 6, 2005, at an unused parking garage in east Austin, Texas. Central Texans gave record amounts of cash and goods over the holiday weekend to aid the 200,000-plus Louisana evacuees in the state. (Photo by Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)


Whether you decide to donate to a national organization or a small community non-profit, here are some resources to help you give responsibly next time a disaster strikes:

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Athletes Pursuing Philanthropy

Athletes Pursuing Philanthropy

Sports Stars are Using Their Platforms to Raise Money for Hurricane Relief

When the recent hurricanes swept across the United States and the Caribbean, many individuals and foundations stepped in to help. A growing number of athletes are among those who have given generously.

Sports stars gave their own money and solicited donations by turning to crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe and YouCaring. Some donated proceeds from their winning tournaments, or committed to giving a certain amount based on their performance, such as $100 per birdie and $500 per eagle in golf.


Michael Phelps hands out gift bags to children as he visits the Boys & Girls Club of Harford County to present a check for $20,000 from the Michael Phelps Foundation and KRAVE Jerky at the Boys & Girls Club of Harford County on December 16, 2016 in Edgewood, MD. (Kris Connor/Getty Images for KRAVE Jerky)


Disasters aside, there are many athletes who are keen philanthropists year-round, whether it is through their own foundations or working with others. For example, the LeBron James Family Foundation works to help children access education in the NBA star’s hometown of Akron, OH. Tennis star Serena Williams has supported 12 charities and 19 causes, according to Look to the Stars, which tracks celebrities’ charitable giving. The Michael Phelps Foundation, run by the world’s most decorated Olympian, works to promote healthy, active lives and expand participation in swimming. Phelps is among the athletes named in last year’s Bleacher Report list of 10 very charitable athletes.


LeBron James joins 200 youth in a spontaneous ‘chalk clap’ to dedicate a new athletic field at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida – Walt Disney World Clubhouse. James, The LeBron James Family Foundation and Sprite donated the revamped facility, along with sporting equipment such as bats, basketballs and soccer nets, to mark the announcement of The Sprite Uncontainable Game at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida on February 25, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Sprite)


And while Colin Kaepernick may currently be best known as the NFL player who started a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during anthems (and setting off a national debate about sports and the national anthem in the process), he has been engaged in community service and charitable giving outside the spotlight, donating causes as diverse as single mothers in Georgia to a clean-energy advocacy group. His website says he has donated $900,000 out of his $1 million pledge to give to organizations working in oppressed communities.

Tyson’s Corner, VA-based Athletes for Hope has worked with about 4,000 athletes representing 25 sports, helping foster their relationships with charities. Ivan Blumberg, the non-profit organization’s CEO, says that athletes want to ensure their efforts are having impact.

“There are those who have a strong desire to help, but like anywhere else in society, there are those who need a push or the education and resources to make a difference,” he says. “They need the tools to make sure that when they want to make a difference, they are doing it right.”

His organization runs workshops that inform athletes about their philanthropic options, help them explore their role in their community, and teach them how to maximize their charitable impact. Most of the time, starting a new foundation is not the best answer because of the time and money required to run one successfully, Blumberg says. He points out that athletes are often powerful role models for children, so it is great to see so many of them engaged in philanthropy in different ways.

“Athletes have a platform to inspire social change and some certainly use that platform to inspire others more broadly and engage in their communities to make a difference,” Blumberg says. “Social change can fall in many categories, whether it’s the fight for equality or disaster relief, so we certainly applaud athletes who are working to step up and make a difference.”


Anna Ucheomumu high fives Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt after loading a car with relief supplies for people impacted by Hurricane Harvey on September 3, 2017, in Houston, Texas. J.J. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has raised more than $18 million to date to help those affected by the storm. (Photo by Brett Coomer – Pool/Getty Images)


USA Today has a comprehensive list that includes recent donations from athletes, as well as teams and team owners).

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Uniting for a Cause

Uniting for a Cause

Philanthropic Dollars are Bolstering UN’s work

The United Nations stands in midtown Manhattan on January 26, 2017 in New York City. President Donald Trump is preparing executive orders that would reduce US funding of the United Nations and other international organizations. The first order would cut funding for any U.N. agency or other international group that meets any specific criteria. Organizations and groups to receive cuts may include peacekeeping missions, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Population Fund. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


After taking office in January, President Trump quickly reinstated the “global gag rule,” a policy that prevents organizations around the world from receiving U.S. funds if their services include abortions, or even providing information about abortion. Research shows the rule leaves a devastating impact, including preventing girls and women from accessing health services, hampering HIV prevention efforts, and contributing to the closure of health clinics.

So a day after the order, a group of Dutch officials gathered to figure out what to do.

“We said, ‘We’re not going to let this happen,’” says Rebekka Van Roemburg, co-lead of the support unit of the organization formed as a result, She Decides. “A bunch of civil servants in a little room were steaming and they came up with this name [She Decides].’ Within a couple of days, the website was launched to get money from the public, and other governments said they also wanted to join. So they are all basically queuing up and saying, ‘What are we going to do?’”

Just over a month later, a conference was held in Belgium with more than 450 participants from about 50 governments interested in participating. They agreed to work together to support girls and women, and pledged more than $200 million for the cause.

She Decides exemplifies how foundations, the public and the business sector – as well as governments – are coming together at a time when the U.S. government is pulling back on its investments in global issues such as health and reproductive rights, and climate change. Such initiatives also illustrate the commitment of the philanthropic field to support the work of the United Nations and its agencies. While some have raised concerns about the kind of influence and potential conflicts non-governmental funding may create at the UN, others say is critical in order to meet the demands of growing global challenges.

Van Roemburg says it is difficult to make up the gap created when a top funder such as the United States withdraws its support. But many foundations are stepping up their contributions because they recognize that girls and women’s lives depend on the programs affected. Foundations can help prevent such harm, and propel proactive change, she says.

“Foundations can be a lot edgier and say, ‘We really think this issue deserves a push that’s maybe a little more difficult for a government to give,’” she says. “We like to see ourselves as a positive disruptor, where we bolster the brave and are unapologetic about things, and we can do that. Governments are less able to go into the cutting-edge stuff, and foundations can do that.”

Pledges for She Decides are approaching $500 million, and some 30,000 people and organizations have signed its manifesto, committing to speaking out, changing unfavorable rules and unlocking resources for girls and women. A number of foundations have already given support or voiced interest in getting involved, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ford Foundation, she says. One of the co-founders of a U.K. charity, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, has been helping get other foundations involved, she says. The bulk of the money will go to organizations that have long been working in the field, such as the International Planned Parenthood Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

In 2016, the United States was the UNFPA’s fourth biggest funder, contributing $69 million. Since the new federal government came into place, no money has been received.

“This means that our programs in all of the 150 countries that we operate in have been reduced in a whole-scale fashion,” says Klaus Simoni Pederson, chief of UNFPA’s resource mobilization branch. “We’ve tried to protect the poorest as much as possible, but everyone has been hit. The money simply isn’t there.”

Without financial support from the U.S. government, about 48,000 women will lose access to safe delivery, 34 mobile health teams can no longer travel to remote areas to provide services, 17 safe spaces for women and girls will stop providing support, and 54 health facilities that provide reproductive and maternal health services will lose support, according to the UNFPA.

The philanthropic field is stepping in, and this includes the Gates Foundation and Oak Foundation, Pederson says. Governments that have increased their contributions include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Sweden, he says.

There are also examples beyond health and reproductive rights. When President Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the landmark Paris agreement to reduce harmful carbon emissions, former New York Mayor and 2009 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipient Michael Bloomberg pledged $15 million through his foundation to support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

There are some concerns about the growing role of private money at the UN. A recent Global Policy article says that in 2013, about 14 percent of voluntary contributions to the UN system, or $3.3 billion, came from foundations, corporations and civil society. The article points out several problems with this, such as the lack of transparency and accountability, the influence on UN policies and agenda setting, and the rise of “philanthrocapitalism,” or the applying of business and market-based approaches at the intergovernmental body.

But Pederson says that before receiving money, every potential partnership is closely vetted.

“If you are willing to support the issues that are included in our strategic plan that we’re adopting, then we’re extremely grateful and this is very welcome,” he says. “We have a rather long list of corporate partners and foundations and so forth, so we’re not hesitant as long as you agree with the main work of the organization and we have done the due diligence.”

As global problems and crises intensify, budgets are often not keeping up, so partnerships are critical for addressing these challenges, says Nick Nuttall, spokesperson and director of communications and outreach at the UNFCCC.

“The UN is an institution that, for many, many years has faced increasingly squeezed budgets and increasing demands on what governments want it to do,” he says. “So I think the UN system as a whole is trying to work more closely with foundations and the progressively minded private sector. We have to be careful because we have to make sure what these people want is not much different from what we want. But if their interests align with our interests and our due diligence shows that is the case, then we’ll welcome it.”

The Global Policy article says that while there is a growing trend of the UN opening up to corporate and philanthropic dollars, the funding percentages at UN agencies remain small. For example, voluntary contributions from the private sector, foundations and other non-state actors to UN Women accounted for only 1.8 percent of all contributions in 2015, and only about 3 percent at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Van Roemburg says it is still early days in terms of assessing the full impact of the United States’ decision to pull some of its funding from global programs. But money often equals power, so the shift could also mean that other governments and institutions end up taking on more leadership roles. As the dust settles from Trump’s surprise rise to office, a new landscape is emerging.

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Geography of Giving

Geography of Giving

Which Cities and States are Most Charitable?

If you live in Utah, you are in America’s most charitable state. If you are in New England, you may be in one of the country’s less philanthropic areas.

As a nation, the United States has a deep tradition of giving, but some areas are simply more generous than others.

Different surveys use different methodologies to determine which places are the most giving. But one thing remains consistent: Utah always tops the list. The main reason cited for this is the Mormon religion and tithing – the practice of giving one tenth of income to the church.

The trend also holds true when cities are ranked – in a 2012 Chronicle of Philanthropy report that looks at generosity in America’s 366 metropolitan areas, the top four spots all went to Utah. Meanwhile, Worcester, Mass., Lewiston, Maine and Manchester-Nashua, N.H. rank at the bottom. These three states, along with Vermont, also rank as the least charitable in the survey.


Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy


Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy


Many factors are at play. Some studies indicate that residents of rural and small towns donate more, as do those in more religious areas. The Southern states usually rank higher, and New England ranks lower.

“In some of the New England states, there is probably a stronger government safety net and facilities than in some of the more rural areas,” so the need may not be as great, says Elizabeth Boris, a fellow at the Urban Institute who is the founding director of its Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy.

Some areas have many more non-profit organizations and therefore many charitable options, Boris says. People also tend to give more if they are asked to donate – and this is more likely to happen in tight-knit communities.

One recent study examines the performance of non-profit organizations in the 30 largest metropolitan areas. The Charity Navigator report found that factors such as the cost of living and a city’s tendency to support specialized causes greatly influence an organization’s ability to raise money. It found that charities in Houston, D.C. and Los Angeles receive the highest median contributions, while those in Philadelphia, Boston and Minneapolis/St. Paul get the least.

Overall, America is certainly a generous place. In 2016, individual giving rose to an all-time high, exceeding $390 billion, according to the Giving USA 2017 report. All nine sectors of giving increased, with religion still topping the list. With 32 percent of contributions going to religion, this sector receives more than twice the funding as the next category, which is education.

In terms of political affiliation, red states – which are also more religious – rank better than blue states, according to WalletHub and Chronicle of Philanthropy surveys.


Red States are More Generous than Blue States

Source: WalletHub


Rebecca Riccio, director of the Social Impact Lab at Northeastern University, says while people in more religious states tend to give more, there is a need to study the impact of such giving.

“Everyone always stops at the conclusion that people in states that have the highest participation in faith-based organizations give the most money, but we don’t really look at how does that giving translate into impact in the community,” she says. “Something I think is hugely important for people to think about is that the organization you give to is not the end point in the flow of the money.”

Worldwide, the United States regularly ranks among the most charitable countries. Last year, it ranked second, behind Myanmar, according to the World Giving Index.


Source: Charities Aid Foundation


Riccio says Americans believe in supporting communities, but the country lacks a strong social safety net.

“We are a caring society, we believe in obligations to each other, yet we do not want to fulfill that obligation via taxes, so charity is what’s left for us as a vehicle to respond to the needs in our communities,” she says. “It’s a fascinating dynamic and it’s very distinctly American.”

Riccio says there should not be a specific benchmark when it comes to what percentage of income people should donate – a figure that averages at about two percent nationally. Instead, she says she hopes everyone thinks about how much they can afford to give. She says it is also critical for everyone to realize the importance of non-profit organizations year-round, and not just during political turmoil and emergencies.

“I really believe in encouraging people to understand more deeply how absolutely necessary the non-profit sector is to the social fabric in the U.S.,” Riccio says, “and how dependent all of us are on it for our quality of life, from cradle to grave.”

Everyone should think about making a difference beyond charitable giving, by considering everything from how they volunteer to how they vote, shop and manage their homes and businesses, Riccio says. She says individuals have powerful toolkits at their disposal – and it’s up to each one of us to decide how to use them for the greater good.

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Measuring Impact

Measuring Impact

How Do You Assess the Effects of Giving?

How do you measure good? That is the challenge facing the philanthropic sector. In storybooks it is easy, of course. A fairy waves a magic wand, Snow White smiles. The real world is less straightforward.


Source: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy


Now, help has arrived, in the form of analytical programs that seek to measure impact and bring science to the world of giving. GuideStar Platinum, a platform that allows nonprofit organizations to submit information about their progress and results, celebrated its first birthday in May. More than 2,100 organizations have provided information to date, and the goal is to reach about 10,000 by 2020, says Eva Nico, GuideStar’s director of nonprofit programs.

This additional data is creating more transparency, but measuring impact in the nonprofit sector remains a major challenge, she says. “There is such a broad variety of outcomes that it’s hard to get to a way of assessing impact,” Nico says. “It’s one very small word that stands for many different things.”

GuideStar Platinum tries to answer at least some questions about results. Donors and other players in the philanthropic field are increasingly demanding data on outcomes and impact, and the sector is grappling with how to best collect and use such information.

About 70 percent of organizations using GuideStar Platinum are choosing pre-selected measuring tools to describe their results, while 30 percent rely on custom measures, Nico says. The hope is that over time, it will be possible to determine which measures best define success, so it is easier to see who is performing the best. A long-term goal is to allow users to search by outcome, for example, “graduation rate” for an educational program.

Other platforms and organizations that try to measure impact have also popped up in recent years. ImpactMatters creates “impact audits” to measure nonprofit organizations’ results. Dean Karlan, a Yale economics professor who started the organization in late 2015, says half a dozen audits have been completed so far. The goal is to develop standards that others could mimic, he says.

“There is tremendous demand for data, but it’s a question of focusing it in the right way and creating a clear product that can be systematically applied to lots of organizations,” Karlan says.

Another organization is GiveWell, which conducts in-depth research on programs’ accomplishments and ranks the top charities. But it is limited in scope, as it focuses on a small number of charities. The organization is often cited as an example of “effective altruism,” a movement that encourages people to consider a number of questions and evidence to determine which charities and causes have the greatest impact.

The field of effective altruism is growing, but out of the top 50 donors, only a couple are true effective altruists — Dustin Moskovitz, the Facebook co-founder, and his wife, Cari Tuna, says Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.


Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna (Photo by Good Ventures)


“I think [effective altruism] is adding rigor to how donors think about things and it’s getting more popular, but I don’t think it’s transformed the way people give,” Palmer says. “It’s forced a lot of people to ask, ‘How do I make sure my money goes the furthest?’ instead of ‘What is it that makes me feel good as a donor?”

Many nonprofit organizations want to produce better data, but lack the funding and trained staff needed to conduct proper evaluations, Palmer says. She adds that some funders are now incorporating this cost into their grants.

Charity watchdog groups say they are aware of donors’ hunger for impact data, but are still trying to figure out best to quantify an often elusive concept. As part of its efforts, Charity Navigator is partnering with others in the field to make available data from 1.5 million digitized tax records filed by nonprofit organizations. The hope is to be able to map and analyze the data, says David Bruce Borenstein, Charity Navigator’s lead data scientist.

“This work is, in one sense, the Rosetta Stone — it allows us to greatly expand our comprehension of how the nonprofit sector ticks,” Borenstein says. “On the other hand, it’s a Pandora’s box, because it opens up the door to profound misinterpretation, misunderstanding and finger-pointing, some of which may be fair and deserved, and some of which may not. It runs the risk of introducing new myths about what makes organizations work and not.”

Another challenge is that many foundations and nonprofit organizations remain apprehensive about providing more data. Dan Petegorsky, senior fellow and director of public policy at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says it is important to distinguish when data is being collected as part of a grant from when it’s being gathered as part of a learning environment.


Source: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy


Petegorsky also says he is concerned about the growing disregard for data in the current political environment. He mentions the recent attitude to reports from the Congressional Budget Office as one example.

“We do have to address the fact that data itself is under attack and being politicized,” he says. “That is something that is certainly a mark of the moment and something that is relatively new for philanthropy to try to take on.”

When it comes to measuring impact, there is no shortage of challenges, but the philanthropic field seems eager to tackle them. The biggest question remains: how do you measure success on issues that may take years, or even decades, to change? Ultimately, however, analysing philanthropic efforts will allow us to target resources more effectively and show those who want to help others what their generosity achieves.

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Rounding up for Charity

Rounding up for Charity

Car Services, Groceries and Retailers are All Collecting Change

IT is a truly modern form of giving. The ridesharing company Lyft recently launched an initiative allowing customers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar for charity.

The innovative scheme hardly leaves donors out of pocket, but adds up to a big boost for charities. In May, Lyft partnered with United Services Organizations in honor of Military Appreciation Month, while June’s collaborator was the Human Rights Campaign, in honor of Pride Month.


Photo by Nisian Hughes via Getty Images


More than 40,000 passengers donated over $100,000 in support of the two causes in the program’s first two months, according to Lyft.

Lyft is the latest major company to allow consumers to round up for charity. Grocery stores, mass merchandisers and specialty retailers are among those that allow customers to donate their change to various causes. As technology and digital platforms make such giving easier, the trend of rounding up for charity is likely to grow.

A study by Engage for Good found that in 2016, 73 “charity checkout campaigns” raised more than $441 million, up by 4.5% since 2014. E-Bay topped the list, raising more than $56 million for consumers’ favorite charities, followed by Walmart, with $37 million going to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and Petco, with more than $28 million for animal welfare organizations.

Megan Strand, Engage for Good’s communications director, says point-of-sale fundraising is an efficient way for companies to raise money for good causes.

“We have been seeing greater interest in round-up from both retailers and researchers over the past several years,” she says. “Several retailers we’re familiar with are using this tactic as a second bite at the apple and offering the option to round-up to consumers if they indicate they don’t want to donate a flat amount. Other retailers are using round-up as their primary ask and finding great reception from customers.”

She says such campaigns will likely grow and include more digital platforms. Some websites already offer this option. For example, GoDaddy, which lets people buy and build websites, has a “Round Up for Charity” box that allows customers to round up their order to the nearest dollar. The company says more than 14 million customers have chosen the option.

Round It Up America, a non-profit organization that partners with restaurants, allows patrons to round up their credit card bills for donations. And there are of course plenty of ways to donate physical loose change. One of UNICEF’s longest running programs is Change for Good, a partnership with the airline industry that allows passengers on some flights to donate unused currency. The program has raised more than $150 million. Coinstar, which has kiosks where people can exchange their coins for dollar bills, runs a “Coins that Count” charity program, allowing users to give money to organizations such as the American Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund.


Coinstar kiosks in a large supermarket. The typical Coinstar coin cashing kiosk is green and the size of a large vending machine. They are located at grocery stores, drug stores, larger merchants, banks or other retail locations. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)


Una Osili, professor of economics and associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, says companies are increasingly aware that consumers care about their involvement with charitable causes.

“You now have the ability to do it in a very low-cost way, for the consumer and the company,” she says. “And I think it fits into the demand side. Consumers want to purchase from companies that are good community and global citizens.”

Experts in philanthropy say that, as with all charitable giving, consumers should research where their money goes and what the impact is. Osili says it is also worth paying attention to what kinds of partnerships are involved. For example, a fried chicken company that teams up with a breast cancer cause is questionable since such food is usually unhealthy, she says.

Dean Karlan, a Yale economics professor whose research includes charitable fundraising, says it is difficult to say how successful efforts such as Lyft’s are. Positive effects may include people learning about charities they did not previously know about, he says. But a negative effect could be that if people donate a little here and there, they may be more inclined to turn down a request for a larger donation. On the other hand, Karlan says donating change regularly could make some people feel so good that they become more charitable.

“Every one of these makes sense, but the ultimate question is empirical and we just don’t have all the answers,” Karlan says. “It would be great to set up some experiments to find out.”

So whether you hold on to your pennies or donate them, be aware that even small change can have a big impact.


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Millennial Shift

Millennial Shift

Generation Y is Tapping into its Power as Consumers, Employees and Citizens

Most of them are charitable and have volunteered. They use their cell phones to donate, and see their workplace as somewhere they can make a big difference. They will account for half the workforce by 2020, and outnumber everyone else by 2030.

They are millennials – and foundations, non-profits and others interested in philanthropy are paying close attention to their charitable giving and engagement. Millennials – or Generation Y – are the first group to embrace mobile giving, and are not afraid to support international causes, or use their consumer and political power. But most of them are still at early points in their careers, and their full impact on philanthropy will not be known for years.


Children’s Literacy Center volunteer tutor from East High School, Clare Curwen, left, works with Jaydan Guzman at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library November 20, 2014. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)


The term “millennial” is used for those born between 1980 and 2000 (some researchers use the early 1980s as a starting point, and the early 2000s as the end point). Their sheer numbers are prompting the philanthropy world to track them closely – in less than 15 years, they are expected to outnumber non-millennials. They are the first cohort to grow up with cell phones and social media, which has greatly influenced the way they approach charity.

“They’re the first generation to realize that the minute they make a gift, they can tell 1,000 of their friends in a nanosecond,” says Eileen Heisman, president and CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust. “The idea that you’re going to tell the world immediately is a way to invite people to give, a way to highlight a cause.”

In 2014, 84 percent of millennials made charitable donations, and 70 percent said they spent at least an hour volunteering, according to research by the Achieve group. Millennials are particularly interested in giving to marginalized or disenfranchised groups, and supporting causes that promote equality, equity, and opportunity, the study found.

They are also very engaged in global causes and the environment, says Una Osili, research director at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“Those are two sectors that are relatively new to charitable giving and relatively small compared to say, religion or education giving,” she says. “But that’s an area that they’ve shown a lot of interest in.”


What Three Social Issues Interest You Most?

Source: 2016 Millennial Impact Report


Experts say millennials also know how to leverage their consumer power. They are more likely to buy brands they believe are giving back, whether that be TOMS shoes or Warby Parker eyeglasses. Osili and others point out it is important to research how effective such companies are in giving back, however, and evaluate the impact of their claims.

“Some ‘cause’ marketing campaigns have been less effective and there is also a question about how much actually goes to charity versus the company,” she says. “But overall, the idea that you can have impact, not just through charitable giving, but through a range of consumption and investment decisions, is very attractive to millennials. They want to work in companies that are involved in social good and buy from companies that are good corporate citizens and good community members.”

Millennials will make up half the workforce by 2020. They see their workplaces as the arena where they can be most influential, according to a Deloitte survey. Another study found 64 percent of millennials will not work for an employer that does not have strong corporate social responsibility values. Derrick Feldman, who founded Achieve and is the lead researcher of the Millennial Impact Report, says millennials have put pressure on companies not only as consumers, but as employees.

“Millennials are looking for companies to stand up for something and to make it clear that they should be standing up for certain issues and rights of individuals,” he says, “not just for their consumers, but for the betterment of their communities, neighborhoods and employees who live in those neighborhoods.”


Wheelock College student volunteers, or corps members, part of the Jumpstart early education program, work with pre-schoolers at the Crittenton Center at the Madison Park complex. Here, they lead kids in a dance. (Photo by George Rizer/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)


Researchers say millennials are also exercising their power as citizens, and engaging in philanthropy in response to political events. The 2016 Presidential election prompted many of them to get even more involved, they said. The 2017 Millennial Impact Report found their cause engagement increased in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the last quarter of 2016.

“I think charitable giving is a manifestation of how you look at the world and your political views,” Heisman says. “You are supporting what you believe in.”

Feldman, from Achieve, says another key characteristic that distinguishes millennials is that they view all of their assets equally, whether that be their money, their time, or their networks. They do not see themselves as donors or volunteers, but as supporters of a particular cause or issue, he says. Organizations such as the ACLU, Amnesty International and ONE are aware of this, and incorporate grassroots movement building and participation into their strategy before ever asking for money, he says.

Most millennials are still early in their careers, so their long-term impact is yet to be determined. Many are getting jobs and building families later than the previous generations, and have not reached their peak income. The jury is still out on what impact they will have – but the philanthropy field is watching with close attention.

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Philanthropy’s Fight Against Climate Change

Philanthropy’s Fight Against Climate Change

Where there is a will, there is a way. The U.S. federal government recently announced it will pull out of the landmark Paris agreement, but environmentalist Carl Pope remains hopeful. Cities and states give him hope, he says, as does philanthropy.

“We have a huge coalition of states, cities, private businesses, universities and churches that have said they want to do the right thing,” says Pope, who, along with the former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, authored the book “Climate of Hope.” “Philanthropy now has to shift its vision from how to persuade the federal government, to how do we enable local sectors – whether public or private – to implement changes that will reduce emissions.”


Michael Bloomberg at the C40 Cities climate summit in Johannesburg on February 5, 2014.


Pope, the former head of environmental organization the Sierra Club and a senior advisor to Bloomberg, says that philanthropy can show why clean energy is not only good for the environment, but is profitable.

“Philanthropy now has to be more in the business of enabling pilot projects to demonstrate how profitable all this is,” he says, “rather than persuading people to make a sacrifice based on the risks if we don’t act.”

There are many examples of how philanthropy has done this, Pope says. In India, U.S. philanthropists partnered with the private sector and the government to encourage production of energy-saving LED lights. Not only did the lights become cheaper as a result, enabling more people to access electricity, but India became a major producer of this technology. The market is the driving force now, he says, “but philanthropy had to prime the pump.”

President Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the historic Paris agreement, the world’s commitment to reduce harmful carbon emissions. The same day, Bloomberg pledged $15 million through his foundation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Bloomberg, a 2009 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipient, has been instrumental in getting others to commit to reducing carbon emissions. The list of more than 1,200 governors, mayors, businesses, investors and universities who have signed up to the We Are Still In open letter supporting the Paris agreement keeps growing.

Pope says that there are countless cities on all sides of the political spectrum taking the lead on clean energy. Houston – the natural gas capital – gets nearly 90 percent of its power from wind and solar energy. Salt Lake City plans to transition to 100% renewable energy sources by 2032, and Portland is committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Even the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum recently announced it was switching to solar power.

Nick Nuttall, a spokesperson and director of communications and outreach for the UNFCCC, says there is a growing need for the UN to work with foundations and the private sector to fight climate change.

“Philanthropy can, by its very nature, sometimes do things and take risks that business itself doesn’t want to take in the absence of certainty, or maybe because of a policy vacuum,” he says. “Philanthropists can also operate in ways which aren’t just brutally financial. They may have other reasons for wanting to support climate change; it may be for social values, or gender, or women’s issues.”

John Coequyt, director of federal and international climate campaigns at the Sierra Club, says philanthropists like Bloomberg, Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson play a critical role that goes beyond dollars.

“There is definitely an element of actually being advocates for the changes that they want to see, whether that’s divestment on their side, or using their influence to get companies and governments to make decisions,” he says. “These are people who have influence and it’s really important that they use their influence to advance the goals their philanthropy is trying to achieve.”

Some philanthropists have been encouraging others to get involved. The presidents of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation – which are among the biggest funders in the climate change field – wrote an op-ed in 2015 urging philanthropists to step up, and pointing out that less than 2 percent of philanthropic dollars go to climate work. Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer recently outlined ways philanthropy can do more, such as by supporting nations and networks committed to the Paris agreement, rallying support from business associations, and working with banks and finance ministers to make investing in clean energy easier.


2016 contributions: $390.05 billion by type of recipient organization (in billions of dollars – all figures are rounded) Source: Giving USA 2017


One recent example of a philanthropic effort in this area is Oak Foundation’s six-year, $20 million grant to help communities in Africa and the Arctic adapt to climate change. And in May, MacArthur Foundation announced $19 million to support cleaner and cheaper energy in the United States, bringing the total amount in its Climate Solutions program to $120 million.

Still, the money goes both ways. A 2015 report found U.S. donors gave more than $125 million over three years to spread disinformation about climate change and curtail progress.

It is difficult to say how much is going towards climate change today. But the latest Giving USA report found giving to causes supporting the environment and animals saw the largest increase among the various categories in 2016, at 7.2 percent.

Coequyt, from Sierra Club, says the day the United States announced it was withdrawing from the Paris agreement was the organization’s biggest online fundraising day of the year. But the need remains immense because the current administration may try to rewrite codes that protect everything from water, to air, and endangered species, he says.

“There is definitely need for federal defense and the scale of that is daunting,” he says, “but it is also true that no one should think that because of that attack, there isn’t an ability to make progress on climate change.”

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Giving, Without Opening Your Wallet

Giving, Without Opening Your Wallet

What do knitting, running and playing games have in common? Philanthropy.

© Amy Berman/Mother Bear Project

Got knitting skills? You can make hats for premature babies or teddy bears for children living in HIV/AIDS-affected areas. Like taking photos? Snap one and with a click on your phone, money will be donated to charity. Do you enjoy playing vocabulary games? One of them will donate 10 grains of rice for every correct answer.

Money is the backbone of philanthropy, but there are plenty of ways to give that don’t involve pulling out your wallet. A proliferation of websites, apps and organizations is making it easier than ever to convert your skills, interests and hobbies into charitable giving, whether that’s your knitting products, photos or even the miles from your morning run.

Sometimes, determination is all you need.

Fifteen years ago, Amy Berman came across an article that led her on a journey of giving that is still going strong. Berman, who lives in a Minneapolis suburb, read about children in Africa contracting HIV/AIDS because some men falsely believed that having sex with virgins would cure them of the disease. The article mentioned that a child protection unit in South Africa was looking for items of comfort for the young victims.


Amy Berman, © Amy Berman/Mother Bear Project


“My kids were young at the time, 8 and 11,” Berman says. “I knew I couldn’t just pick myself up and go to Africa and roll up my sleeves. But instead, I thought, ‘O.K., let’s think here. What in the world can I do to send comfort?’ I thought about my kids and what brought them comfort, and I thought about how every single night they slept near teddy bears that my mother had knit for them.”

Berman did not know how to knit, nor did she consider herself crafty. But she asked her mom to teach her, and she eventually taught hundreds of others to do the same. Fifteen years after reading that article, Berman has helped get more than 135,000 teddy bears into the hands of African children in 26 countries. She eventually founded a non-profit organization, Mother Bear Project. Every week, Berman and a volunteer ship 250 teddy bears, and she has made a handful of trips to Africa to meet some of the young recipients. Some of them are orphans, some – but not all – have HIV/AIDS, and some haven’t been tested, but all live in HIV/AIDS-affected areas.

“There are a lot of grants out there for people who are doing feeding, educating, housing,” Berman says. “But comfort is not included. And as a mom and a human being, I know that every child needs comfort, and that’s why I just keep doing it.”

Mother Bear Project is just one example of using knitting to give. One 86-year-old man learned to knit so he could make hats for premature babies. But if you have no desire to grab your knitting needles, there are plenty of other ways to become philanthropic, whether through volunteering, or donating everything from your clothes to your blood.


You can use web browsers to donate to charity through sites such as Tab for a Cause. Another easy way to give is to donate your photos through Johnson & Johnson’s Donate a Photo app, which has given more than $2.3 million to over 130 causes. You can play a simple vocabulary game, and for every correct answer, 10 grains of rice will be donated to the World Food Programme. Runners can become philanthropic while on the move; Charity Miles has donated more than $2 million on behalf of those who use their app to track their steps.

“This idea of philanthropy being more than dollars is very important,” says Sheila Herrling, senior vice president of social innovation at Case Foundation. “Do not underestimate time and talent, along with treasure, when you think about giving. When you’re giving, you’re declaring your case, you’re investing your time, you’re part of that cause – and there is something important about that.”

About a quarter of American adults volunteer their time, talents and energy toward making a difference, according to data compiled by the National Philanthropic Trust. In 2015, the value of volunteer time exceeded $23 an hour, which equates to about $184 billion in contributions. Fundraising or selling items were the most popular activities, followed by food collection or distribution, then general labor or transportation.


Berman says she never set out for philanthropy to play such a central role in her life, but her desire to contribute simply led her there.

“I don’t believe people have to be directly impacted by something to care, because we’re all part of this humanity,” she said. “And we need to take care of each other. If people don’t step up, what kind of a world is this?”

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