I loved the article in the New York Times by Arthur Brooks last week, titled “Why Fund-Raising is Fun.”
Brooks explains that while researching a book on charitable giving back in 2003, he found a strange pattern in his data. He says:
“I was finding that donors ended up with more income after making their gifts. This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity. I viewed my results as implausible, though, and filed them away. After all, data patterns never “prove” anything, they simply provide evidence for or against a hypothesis.
“But when I mentioned my weird findings to a colleague, he told me that they were fairly unsurprising. Psychologists, I learned, have long found that donating and volunteering bring a host of benefits to those who give. In one typical study, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia confirmed that, in terms of quantifying “happiness,” spending money on oneself barely moves the needle, but spending on others causes a significant increase.”
I’ve contended for over a year now that I work with really happy folks, our members included. In nearly every conversation, I hear stories of generous donors and meaningful grants. And when those generous donors are involved in the grantmaking, the happiness needle probably goes off the chart.
But it’s rarely about the money; instead, it’s about the difference the gift, the grant and the time invested has made to the ultimate beneficiary and the lives that have been changed.
Let me share with you just a few of the examples I’ve heard over the past few weeks of the ways funders are making a difference (and finding meaning and delight in doing so).
Did you know?
- The Cleveland school district and more than 30 area agencies – including members The George Gund Foundation, Bruening Foundation, Cleveland Foundation and United Way of Greater Cleveland – have joined in a partnership with the goal of placing 2,000 more four-year-olds in Cleveland into quality preschool, up from 1,200 today, as part of the PRE4CLE plan.
- Interact for Health’s school-based health center pilot has resulted in a public-private partnership with centers in 20 of Cincinnati’s 55 buildings, with measurable outcomes in improved student health and educational attainment.
- The Muskingum County Community Foundation’s Scholarship Central not only lists hundreds of available scholarships but also helps students prepare for the ACT, figure out that complex FAFSA form and more.
- The Youth Fund of the Community Foundation of Lorain County recently spent an afternoon delving into the topic of drug abuse in their community. They heard from an outreach & prevention counselor and got a first-hand account from a 20-year-old recovering heroin addict. What followed was an engaging discussion and a vote to grant $2,500 for additional support to combat this growing epidemic in their community.
- Continuing to celebrate their 100th birthday, the Cleveland Foundation is giving free admission to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on April 26 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. This gift will recognize the remarkable history and continued partnership with the Zoo, the Cleveland Zoological Society and Cleveland Metroparks.
- The United Way of Summit County just announced $1 million in strategic investments for educational programs that support the Cradle to Career Alliance, a process of analyzing data and administering intervention at pivotal moments in a student’s academic career. Working with the Summit Education Initiative, research and think tank organization, they will be working to pinpoint academic milestones that can be analyzed to predict later success.
Are you feeling happier by just knowing what your colleagues are undertaking? I can’t help but smile at this great work. Don’t hesitate to let me know the good things you’re doing in your community!
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.
Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a roundtable discussion with Kevin Concannon, under secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Service. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks convened the conversation, inviting 20 organizations including a few of our members (The Columbus Foundation, Nationwide Insurance Foundation and the United Way of Central Ohio). The conversation kicked off with a viewing of a short portion of Paycheck to Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, an HBO documentary on poverty. It set the stage for a discussion on poverty and food insecurity, set against the backdrop of the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty.
Much of the next two hours’ conversation focused on food insecurity, one of the most visible indicators of poverty, and I learned a lot about how Ohioans access food programs:
- 1.78 million Ohioans received SNAP (food stamp) benefits in January;
- The average monthly SNAP benefit is $121 per person;
- 75% of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person or a disabled person;
- More than 50% of SNAP households with children had earned income;
- One-quarter of Ohio’s children live in food insecure households; and
- More than half of babies born in Ohio are eligible for WIC.
I also recently heard about a new report by Howard Fleeter and Associates that creates an Ohio Hunger Factors Index. It analyzes historic and current economic indicators that influence hunger to create an index: an index value of 0 would show no poverty, no unemployment, etc. The 2012 index is pegged at 13.38, compared to 7.06 in 2007.
Philanthropy in Ohio devotes millions of dollars a year to alleviating poverty, trying to both repair and maintain the safety net and to make systemic changes that address the root causes of poverty. Some of this work will be showcased at our Summer Institute on July 9, during a session devoted to digging deeply into a case study of Bridges out of Poverty as a model of collective impact led by funders.
I’m currently in my second year of a two-year fellowship at the Nord Family Foundation. The purpose of the fellowship is to learn more about the field of philanthropy, serve as a program officer, and to prepare for a future in the nonprofit sector. During the week of March 3, 2014, at the persuasion of my Executive Director John Mullaney, I had the privilege of participating in my first Foundations on the Hill along with other colleagues from Philanthropy Ohio. The reason John needed to persuade me was due to skepticism I share about politics.
ICYMI: There is a newly released study on how Millennials are “deeply confused” about politics. As a 26 year old, I too fit into this category with my generation. However, my hope is that other generations don’t view us as disinterested, politically ignorant, or that our only reference of politics is through CNN and watching House of Cards on Netflix. But rather, in this age of information, my hope is that Millennials are understood as more aware of politician hypocrisy, more understanding of the complexity of issues and less willing to think “black-and-white” on grey issues.
*Stepping down from the Soap Box*
The Most Memorable Moment
Before we headed to the Hill we heard passionate speeches from a number of different people representing government, foundations, nonprofits and business, but all with the same powerful message: protect and promote the charitable sector. Some of the speakers shared viewpoints that echoed some of the familiar rhetoric that many of my peers tend to tune out. But, some of the more compelling presentations came from the nonprofit organizations we partner with every day through philanthropy and are trying to solve the world’s problems.
These organizations shared their testimonies, from the front line, on the impact policy has on nonprofits and the damages that can be done by disincentivizing charitable giving. These latter presenters energized and further enlightened me to the importance of why we were heading to the Hill. While on the Hill I met with more than 10 representatives over a two-day span, but the most memorable for me was our first meeting.
Our first meeting was with Republican Senator Rob Portman. Our conversation with him was very easygoing and he made it clear that he was in support of protecting the charitable sector. The conversation was almost too easy for me, so after we took our photo with him and were about to head to our next meeting I stopped and asked him:
“As a young man trying to decide which side of the aisle (I wanted to say Great Wall of China) to align with as I move forward in life… seeing that I am passionate about my faith and almost equally passionate about social justice, what would be your advice?”
Senator Portman gave me a sincere look and said that being Republican doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved in social justice and he referenced his work on ending sex trafficking; he ended his statement by saying that the party needed more young people and diversity and asked me to follow up with him. I don’t know if his speech was inspiring enough for me to choose which side of this Great Wall of Washington I pledge allegiance to, but it definitely was thought provoking and has been on my mind.
So after meeting with Senator Portman I didn’t ask any other politicians that question but I was very impressed at the number of representatives willing to hear our story. Some of our meetings were conversational and others were presentational, sometimes to stone faces. However, I had an All-Star team with me that really understood how to navigate things, break the ice and be very passionate and informative about why we were there.
Would I Do It Again?
After it was all over someone asked me would I do it again. I most certainly would, and I think there should be more foundations and nonprofits joining along with us as well! I’m looking forward to the years ahead going to Foundations on the Hill and continuing to advocate on behalf of those we serve.
Here are some of my Tweetable thoughts from DC:
- @BarryDoggett knows everyone, he must live in D.C. & @ClaudiaHerrold is like the @HilaryClinton of Philanthropy. She gets things done!
- Does every man in D.C. (young and old) have grey hair? #notetoself #stressincluded
- @CapitolHill hallways look like a college campus. #representativeaides = extensions of Reps. Brains. #Millennials fuel D.C.!
- #Notetoself when in D.C. wear comfortable shoes #walkingincluded
- Glad to be in D.C. advocating for a bi-partisan and noncontroversial topic: philanthropy. Many of the Reps. say we are the easiest conversation and a #BreathofFreshAir
- @OHIO Birthday Parties are where the political deals get made!
- Next year @PhilanthropyOH we need to offer something to be remembered by! Maybe free hugs in the name of “love for humanity.”
Until next time,
Nord Family Foundation
Last week, Philanthropy Ohio President Suzanne T. Allen and I walked miles in our nation’s capital to lobby on behalf of our members’ interests, primarily asking representatives and senators to reinstate the IRA Charitable Rollover that expired at the end of last year. The provision has been in effect since 2006, allowing persons aged 70 ½ and older to give IRA assets to charities without tax consequences. It has been very effective in raising money for all kinds of nonprofits, including community foundations. While we were glad that we didn’t hear any opposition to extending it, we were not glad to hear that there probably won’t be movement on that any time soon. If you care about the IRA Charitable Rollover, call your representative today and urge him/her to support its reinstatement – sooner rather than later!
A great group of nine foundation leaders accompanied us on our annual Foundations on the Hill fly-in day, a national day sponsored by the Forum of Regional Associations and Council on Foundations. We are grateful that Keith Burwell, Barry Doggett, David Enzerra, Leah Gary, Joe Ignat, Heidi Jark, John Mullaney, Barbra Stonerock and Frank Whitfield flew to D.C. to be part of the 14 appointments with the Ohio delegation.
Our visits were especially timely this year, as the president had just released his budget (it included yet again a proposed cap on charitable gifts) and as Rep. Camp (chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee) had issued his tax reform “discussion paper” filled with numerous proposed tax changes that would impact philanthropy. Although both items were declared DOA by members of both political parties, the Camp Tax Reform Paper is widely recognized as a starting point for post-election work that would likely extend into the next session of Congress. I’ll have more to say on that after I’ve spent more time perusing the summary, so stay tuned.
My southern grandmother often said, “Well begun is half done.” She also said, “Darlin’, it’s fine, fine, fine – finer than a frog’s hair split three times,” but that’s another story. What she meant by the first idiom stumped me for a long time, until I realized that if you start out with meaning and intent for something to be great, you really are halfway there. The second phrase, well, truly that’s another story for another day.
But I’ve discovered “well begun” isn’t something that happens alone, not in an organization like Philanthropy Ohio. To illustrate this point, let me share with you the process my first Let’s Talk Philanthropy webinar endured from creation, modification, delivery to evaluation.
For this first webinar, we decided to continue a conversation on “Disruptive Innovation” I began at our statewide conference last fall – how philanthropy is being disrupted by innovations in giving trends, technology and globalization. As a former marketing professor, I prepared my lecture, complete with PowerPoint slides and a hefty dose of facts, figures, lovely tables and charts. I considered it “well begun.” And perhaps it was – if I was delivering it to an audience 20 years ago. What I neglected to consider were the innovations in webinars and what the research shows makes a great one.
Fortunately, the staff at Philanthropy Ohio isn’t shy and they are quite apt in making sure our brand and our messages are of a high caliber. While the script remained fairly consistent with my original thoughts, the visuals changed dramatically, with bells and whistles replacing the tables and charts. I learned four very important things:
- You can’t plan enough, and Murphy’s Law will follow you everywhere. Technology isn’t foolproof, and you’ve got to prepare for all calamities. For example, the perfectly working camera we tested the day before had issues during the actual webinar. But due to prior planning, we had a solution. We used all slides and no interactive videography.
- Promotion is critical, and social media is a must! Not only did we conduct the webinar but another staff member Tweeted. Audience identification will drive the marketing strategy because it’s not what the presenter knows: it’s all about what the audience wants to learn.
- Interactivity is important, and one way to engage your audience is through polls. We conducted three during the webinar and it was actually a lot of fun!
- Use more slides to ensure the webinar is interactive. I know, it goes against the traditional thoughts, but really, the more slides the better! I’ve learned that for a 30 minute presentation you should have about 75 slides (1 hour, around 150 slides) that build on what you are presenting. This way there is constant movement and the participant is completely engaged and wanting to see what comes next.
As I started this virtual journey with my sense of “well begun is half done,” I learned from some very smart people that a great webinar is carefully planned and is a wonderful engagement tool which ultimately enhances our brand. The positive evaluations we received reinforced these lessons: I’m told my delivery wasn’t bad, my mother (who is a lot like my grandmother but a little more gracious), said it was good, and the staff didn’t seem terribly embarrassed. But I’m committed now, and every month I hope my webinars get better and better. And I’d appreciate your feedback.
Now – to quote another favorite relative – although I was as “nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” we are persevering with my next webinar on March 7, “It All Started With a Girdle.” See you in Philanthropy Ohio’s virtual world of webinars!
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.
Our work to create a tax credit to encourage gifts to community foundations took a big step forward when we recently gave proponent testimony supporting House Bill 408. Our initiative – Endow Ohio. For Good. For Ever. – began during last year’s budget hearings and continued as a stand-alone bill in the Senate, where it had three hearings late last year.
Now, we have moved on to the House, where Representatives Sears and Amstutz are joint sponsors of the bill. We are excited by the reception we received during Tuesday’s hearing: committee members made many comments about the good work being done by community foundations around the state and asked lots of questions about the purpose and structure of the bill.
Since Chair Amstutz videotapes his committee meetings, you can watch a replay of the Feb. 18 hearing, including the questions and answer period that went on for over an hour. You can also read the testimony given by all five of us supporting the bill: in addition to me, Cara Dingus Brook (Foundation for Appalachian Ohio), Tom Johnson (Community Foundation for Perry County), Jan Ruma (Hospital Council of NW Ohio) and Keith Burwell (Toledo Community Foundation) explained the bill and spoke about the potential impact it would have.
A number of other foundation leaders also attended the hearing to show support: Ted Vander Roest (The Springfield Foundation), Brad Britton (The Columbus Foundation), Shiloh Turner (Greater Cincinnati Foundation), Brian Frederick (Community Foundation of Lorain County) and Bill Lane (Delaware County Foundation).
Help us make Endow Ohio a reality: contact your Ohio legislators and ask them to support SB 211/HB 408.
Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine, and My Thoughts for 4 Take-aways You Can Use Today
Now four years ago, Beth Kanter co-authored with Allison Fine a book that reshaped some widely-accepted thinking in the nonprofit world when it came to the value of social media. The Networked Nonprofit (Jossey-Bass, 2010) introduced the concept of creating a social network as a strategic endeavor, and the authors brought the information together almost as a primer, providing all the tools any nonprofit would need to get started with social media – a game changer at that time.
In my very first webinar last week (whew, glad the first one is over), I mentioned Beth Kanter’s newest book as one of my current reads. This time, she’s teamed up with Katie Delahaye Paine, a measurements expert, for the follow-up book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World (Jossey-Bass, 2012). And I believe she again will change the way nonprofits think when it comes to data, with this book.
Return on Investment (ROI) is one of Kanter’s major themes in all her works, and particularly as it pertains to social media. Her contention is that social media will never be fully mature or even fully accepted until there are very clear and very effective ways to measure it. In this book, she and Paine use great organizational examples and offer helpful tips and information for any nonprofit that is either thinking about, or actively engaged in, the social media world.
Here are 4 thoughts from the book that really resonated with me:
- Let Data Inform, Not Drive Your Organization – Kanter and Paine make the compelling case for nonprofits to be “data informed, not data driven.” By focusing on strategy, and keeping ROI and measurement squarely in the service of your nonprofit mission, you will keep your organization from being consumed by the numbers.
- From Baby Steps to Full Flight – The authors are truly cognizant of the nonprofit world and know that not every nonprofit will have a sophisticated board and/or staff who understand the importance of having and measuring data and social media. So they suggest these stages, which are explained in greater details in the book: Crawl, Walk, Run, and Fly. Each stage has steps which prepares the organization for the next level of engagement and understanding, with the thought that failures are just part of the learning model.
- Create a Data-Informed Culture and Measurement is Power – In these chapters I nearly depleted a new highlighter! Kanter and Paine include many examples of how small nonprofits are using data to help accomplish their missions. Using the “Ladder of Engagement,” which they equate to a marketing funnel, they illustrate the stages that people move through to become real stakeholders in an organization’s cause, and they remind us that each stakeholder group has different communication and relationships needs. Remember AIDA from Marketing 101? Here it is revisited:
• Awareness – when someone becomes simply aware of your organization and what it does.
• Interest – when a person gets actually interested in learning more about your cause.
• Desire – for a nonprofit, this might be when someone starts to identify with your cause as something that he or she wants to support.
• Action – the point when a prospect actually donates, volunteers, shares information about your cause with others, signs a petition, or takes some other action on your behalf.
- Advanced Measurements, But Not Until You’re Ready - The last section deals with more advanced measurement concepts, network improvements and influence measurements, all of which are important, but as the authors remind the reader constantly, you have to crawl before you fly.
What are your social media stories? Your successes and failures? Your best practices? I think it’s fair to say that we are all working on this to some extent, and I hope we can learn from each other.
For real-life examples and more tips, pick up a copy of Kanter’s book. Happy reading!