Posts filed under ‘Annual Conference 2011’

Philanthropy Forward 2011 a great introduction to grantmaking

OGF welcomes guest blogger Jeff Williams with a cross-posting from the blog of The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

From left: Health Foundation Program Officer Ann Barnum, Director of Evaluation Kelly Firesheets, Program Officer Francie Wolgin, Grants Manager Shelly Stolarczyk-George and Director of Publications Jeff Williams attended Philanthropy Forward 2011 in Columbus.

I had the pleasure of attending Philanthropy Forward 2011, the annual conference of the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, last month in Columbus. For me the conference was an initiation of sorts into the world of philanthropy. I came to my job as the Health Foundation’s Director of Publications in June after a 15-year career in the newspaper industry.

The world of foundations and grantmaking was almost completely new to me. Thanks to the conference, I now better understand the breadth and impact of philanthropy, both the kinds of organizations involved (from private community foundations to faith-based nonprofits) as well as the activities they fund (from health initiatives to social enterprise). Plus I met a lot of the great people who are doing this important work throughout the state every day.

The Health Foundation’s own Shelly Stolarczyk-George presented the session “What Due Diligence Delivers,” along with Kerry Shaw of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations and Leonor Alfonso of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Shelly described her experiences with due diligence as the Foundation’s Grants Manager. She helped participants develop strategies for getting information they need to make informed decisions about awarding grants while not overburdening grantees with information requests.

In addition, the two communications sessions I attended reinforced the importance of organizations’ blogs and websites. It is there that groups can share their own story and engage advisers, donors and others interested in their mission. A well-designed, modern and sophisticated website can make a favorable impression of your organization on users. Thus, the use of photos and attention to the amount and spacing of type on a website are important. Finally, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are a great way to direct users back to content on your blog or website.


December 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

Triple A Advice for Philanthropy: Become Advocates, Activists and Accelerants

Sherece West

This week we are pleased to share the keynote address of Sherece West, Ph.D., Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Thank you for the invaluable opportunity to participate in the OGF Philanthropy Forward ‘11 conference. Ohio is a beautiful state and I am blessed to work with many of my grantmaker colleagues in attendance. Ohio has a robust funding community, especially community foundations doing innovative and thoughtful grantmaking. In preparation for this keynote I picked up the phone and called on a couple of Ohio funders for your wisdom and advice because of the many similarities between Arkansas and Ohio. Ohio and Arkansas are challenged by poor education outcomes at the high school and college levels. We are challenged with the social and economic costs of persistent poverty due to lack of access to opportunities that can lead to success. Poor people have less access to health insurance, well-funded schools, livable wage jobs, better service in the justice system, access to opportunity to benefit from public systems and private markets. We are challenged by the transition that seems not to want to end from an agricultural to manufacturing to knowledge and technology-based economy with livable wage jobs. We are challenged to stem our brain drain in rural parts of Ohio, bridge the digital divide and build communities that will sustain entrepreneurs and attract commerce and economic opportunity.

Now we all know our challenges and what we are up against. I am not going to use my 20 minutes to go through Ohio and Arkansas’ negative statistics on child and family well being. We know them so there is no need to rehash them. I will use my 20 minutes to pose the question “what are we going to do?” What are we going to do to fund our future? What are we going to do to move philanthropy forward? What are we going to do?

  • What are we going to do to make rural Ohio a priority for national funders and the federal government?
  • What are we going to do to attract public resources to leverage our grantmaking and make scalable best practices?
  • What are we going to do to influence public policy decisions?
  • What are we going to do with our limited resources to be part of the solution as opposed to continuing to perpetuate the problems through grantmaking practices and approaches?

So what are we going to do? What can we do to fund Ohio in the 21st century? Here is what we can do. We can become the advocates, activists and accelerants our Ohio communities need us as funders to be to create vibrant communities through homegrown philanthropy. Whether you are a private foundation with an endowment, a public charity with a significant donor base, a community foundation or local affiliate or a family foundation, there is much you can do as a funding community in Ohio and an individual foundation to push the envelope to fund Ohio’s future.

Advocates to move Ohio Philanthropy Forward
Grantmaking in the 21st century should invest heavily in advocacy and organizing. It’s the best way to leverage our limited dollars. The scope of the problems we are trying to address is so large – government spending dwarfs foundation giving on every single issue – that we’ve got to fund civic engagement and community organizing if we hope to have real impact. A series of reports from NCRP’s Grantmaking for Community Impact Project shows a high return on investment from these kinds of foundation investments. Across the seven sites and with 110 nonprofits in the sample, the ROI was $115 to $1. For every dollar invested in this work, the community saw $115 in benefits. Regardless of the issue or constituency that is advocating or organizing, we all benefit from the ripple effects, social inclusion and deliberative democracy/civic engagement are advanced.

Foundations as advocates is crucial in the 21st century. Foundations can go to Capitol Hill and state legislatures and talk with our congressional and state representatives about funding formulas. We can support data and research that informs the policy debate. Bring technical expertise to help us consider the best short-term and long-term approaches. We can use our convening power to spur conversation and educate policymakers and advocates about what is best for our Ohio communities. We can go to the Department of Agriculture, Education, the White House, Surgeon General’s Office. We can meet with local school boards, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Health and Human Services. If your foundation does not have the resources to go to Washington or visit the state capitol, collaborate with one that does and shares your point of view.

Your point of view determines your advocacy agenda. We’ve got to strategically target our investments in the 21st century. Wanting our grantmaking to benefit the entire community is a noble goal. But if we aren’t intentional about making sure that our grant dollars are benefiting disenfranchised folks – lower income communities, people of color, women and girls, you name it – then those groups are going to get left behind. The way we make sure our dollars benefit everyone in the 21st century is by being intentional about making sure everyone is included. Then those groups benefit and so does the entire community. Unfortunately, philanthropy hasn’t been too good about that in the past. NCRP’s research has shown that only 10% of arts funding benefits underserved populations, only 28% of health funding and only 11% of education funding.

Activists to Move Ohio Forward in 21st Century
Sherece, are you saying to me I should engage in vigorous action in support of or in opposition to one side of a controversial issue? Yes I am. Do we want our Ohio 3rd graders to read on grade level by the time the reach 4th grade? Then we need to be activists and fiercely support policy and practice that support that goal or fiercely oppose policy and practice that go against it. Do we want to increase Ohio’s college graduation rates? Then we may need to fiercely support performance-based funding, and/or shorten the time to degree completion and/or reduce remediation.

The creation of new economies in rural areas of Ohio with livable wage jobs is more likely to happen with activism. Building the capacity of Ohio’s nonprofit infrastructure to play its role in civil society generally and rural society if you will specifically is more likely to happen with activism. Bringing to scale the outstanding work of many of our nonprofits to provide services and supports to rural citizens is more likely to happen with activism.

The concept of activism as a funder is scary to most. We may need to get over our fear as funders in Ohio communities of activism. Being quiet and passive and polite may not be as effective as collecting data to educate your constituency to develop community change goals and work aggressively and proactively toward influencing how resources are used in a community and advocating for the appropriate amount of resources to accomplish community change goals.

Much of Ohio is in decline for one basic reason – opportunity is shrinking. The demand for Ohio workers – skilled or unskilled – is less today than previously. Ohio areas have more people than there are jobs, especially living wage jobs. Poverty is prevalent. Moving from poverty to prosperity means fighting for the resources within and outside our communities to successfully make the transition. It may require Ohio funders changing current behavior to activism versus passivism. We ought to proactively garner the resources and supports we need, especially local community foundations, for a long term systemic change agenda.

Ohio grantmakers as Accelerants for Change, Light a Fire
Organized philanthropy can only succeed if the human, financial and organizational resources it offers are deployed strategically and appropriately alongside other public and private sectors and actors in society. Philanthropy is called the research and development arm of society. At its best, it uses its unique role to identify and understand the dimensions of deeply-rooted societal problems, test strategies to address them, lay the foundation and serve as the catalyst for change.

The tax exempt status granted foundations compels us as grantmakers to be the catalysts for change. As seen in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the public is ready for change – we need it desperately. Now is the time for us to leverage our power as the potential catalysts for systemic reforms that strengthen our democracy and advance life opportunities for all. Practicing philanthropy in these ways is one route to achieving our shared purpose of catalyzing change.

We need to be that substance that speeds up a process. We need to light a fire under Ohio grantmaking. Community foundations’ infrastructures need to grow. Community philanthropy must include those who live and work in their communities as part of the solution and not as the recipients of benevolent gifts. If strategies to address root causes of problems and to move those families on the margin of our communities toward the mainstream are to be effective, individuals and communities must be included in their development. Philanthropy can be that catalyst to speed up the development.

Use philanthropic tools such as program-related investing and mission related investing to accelerate funding Ohio’s future. We have made several PRIs to venture capital funds, loan funds, business incubators and the like to spur development, spur innovation and entrepreneurship and create jobs in Arkansas on a small scale. Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation made a deposit to Hope Credit Union in College Station, a disinvested community in Little Rock. The deposit helps to build the credit union’s capital that will focus the use of the deposit on housing development. We have switched our banking to Southern Bancorp a CDFI that WRF founded.

Some of you may see your role as an advocate, some as activist and others as accelerants lighting a fire on home growing philanthropy. You may be all three or two of the three. We are all working in common unity to fund Ohio’s future. In common unity as a community your role as Ohio funders must advocate for equitable distribution of resources since federal and state governments are significant funders in our communities. We must work as activists to stem the tide of poverty caused by lack of access to opportunity in Ohio communities by attracting outside resources. We must work as accelerants on growing the capacity and resources to our community foundations that are invaluable to getting this work done and look at additional tools at our disposal such as PRIs and MRIs.

The future of funding Ohio future is in your hands. What are you going to do?

October 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

OGF announces 2011 Ohio Philanthropy Award Recipient

Rob BriggsRob Briggs, president and CEO of the GAR Foundation in Akron, will receive this year’s Ohio Philanthropy Award on October 25 during OGF’s annual conference.

Briggs has led the GAR Foundation for 15 years. Rob is being recognized for his deep and broad commitment to philanthropy, demonstrated not only at the GAR Foundation but in many other ways. In addition to his stellar leadership of the foundation, those nominating him for the award praised his work as the founding chair of the Fund for Our Economic Future, an unprecedented collaboration of more than 80 philanthropists in Northeast Ohio. He is also an active member of the Akron community, serving on the boards of OneCommunity and Invent Now, Inc.

From enhancing the vitality of the Akron community through the GAR Foundation, to fostering the development of northeast Ohio by his leadership of the Fund for our Economic Future, to his national contributions as chair of the board of the Knight Foundation, Rob Briggs embodies the best in American philanthropy.  His sharp mind, generous spirit and engaging personality have long been dedicated to advancing the common good through his foundation work. OGF is proud to recognize him with our highest honor, The Ohio Philanthropy Award.

Thanks to the members of this year’s Selection Committee:
Melissa Kleptz, The Troy Foundation, chair
Sally Duffy, SC Ministry Foundation
Dave Enzerra, The Lubrizol Foundation
Ruth Eppig, Sears-Swetland Family Foundation
Jeffrey Lyttle, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

October 5, 2011 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

What the New Abnormal Means for Grantmakers: “get out in front and lead”

David LaPiana
Today OGF welcomes guest blogger David La Piana, who will lead a session for nonprofits and funders at our annual conference.

In a recent piece for the Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog, I played off of the increasingly common phrase — “The New Normal” — as a description of the current economic and political condition of our nation. I characterized the experience of nonprofits a little differently, as “The New Abnormal,” since even before the global economic crisis the nonprofit sector, and the people who depend upon it for myriad services, have been under threats greater than any experienced in recent history. Now I want to expand on this theme, with an emphasis on what The New Abnormal means for grantmakers.

Traditionally, private philanthropy was assumed to act as our nation’s risk capital, with foundations creating and supporting innovative and at times risky solutions to pressing social problems. Those pilot efforts showing promise were then widely adopted, often with federal and state funding making these innovations broadly available. The problem with holding to this as our mental model for innovation is that its heyday was way back in the 1960s during the War on Poverty. It’s been a long time, at least 1980, since a brilliant new social innovation followed this trajectory to wide acceptance. In fact, in The New Abnormal even such proven innovations as Head Start and child nutrition programs are experiencing repeated and drastic cutbacks. Yet, despite this strange reversal of the old innovation model, foundations still see themselves as the nation’s social innovators. While grantmakers continually seek and test new and innovative solutions, any promising ideas have virtually no chance of achieving widespread dissemination through federal or state support. This too is part of The New Abnormal.

In addition to fostering innovation on the sexy side of philanthropy, foundations routinely attend to the more mundane business of supporting longstanding, essential activities in our communities, ranging from local arts programs to homeless shelters.

Not only is innovation threatened under The New Abnormal, but the social safety net, whose fabric is tattered in the best of times, is threatened with collapse by an acute shortage of public monies. At every level of government funding for the kinds of activities typically provided by nonprofits is under attack.

How should private philanthropy respond?

There is no way for private dollars to backfill the billions being cut from public budgets, yet is it enough for foundations to continue a business-as-usual approach in the face of this building crisis? Some have argued that foundations should double their payout rate to ease the nonprofit cash crunch. Others suggest that funders should redirect all of their resources, at whatever payout level, to supporting critical services, abandoning for a time their investment in the more innovative initiatives that give foundation boards a thrill. The question I want to ask is whether there is an opportunity in all of this for philanthropy to do more than backfill – to get out in front and lead.

There are two related steps foundations could take today – individually and collectively – to address The New Abnormal. The first is to raise their voices in protest over the dismantling of the social safety net and the broader compact between citizens and their government in which some measure of fairness is assumed to prevail. When the billionaire hedge fund manager pays a 15% tax rate while his chauffer pays 35% it is hard to believe in the fairness of our system. When tax cuts for the top 1% of the wealthy take precedence over food stamps for the poor, reasonable people will ask what has become of our democracy. Foundations are well-positioned to make the case for greater fairness in society, beginning with a loud fight against the destruction of the social safety net.

The second step foundations could take is to focus additional funding on support for advocacy and organizing, activities that mobilize people to participate in the political process at every level. Only through a national movement can the voices of regular people compete with the voices of corporations, lobbyists, and other special interests.

By taking these two steps – and better still by doing it in concert rather than as individual actions by private foundations acting in isolation – philanthropy can play a pivotal role at a crucial time in our country’s history, fulfilling Andrew Carnegie’s pledge of philanthropy “doing real and permanent good in the world.”

While OGF encourages dialogue about philanthropy from a variety of perspectives, we endorse only those official positions taken by our board.  

September 29, 2011 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

The OGF Conference is the place to be if you want to master philanthropy

Mary Sobecki from The Needmor Fund explains why you should attend OGF’s annual conference – in rhymed verse, no less!


Ode to Philanthropy Forward ‘11

It takes more than intelligence
To do well at due diligence.
In our jobs there is great demand
For having knowledge right at hand.

In late October there is a week
For obtaining all the info you may seek.
Yes, fall is the time when you really must go
To the best of all gatherings…the OGF Show!

The presenters this year are all quite stellar,
Starting with Gara LaMarche — an erudite feller.
And if Gara’s opinions are not enough
There’s David LaPiana – he knows his stuff.

And Ms. Shereece West, what a rising star —
Yes, the plenary speakers are the best by far.
But don’t discount the break-out sessions
For they, too, will instill many lessons.

Workshops for directors, staff and trustees
The conference schedule is sure to please.
You’re bound to learn a new trick or two
That will make you better at what you do.

And did I mention that you’ll not only think
There’s also big fun, good food and drink.
With your grantmaking peers you can mix
While at the same time the world you fix.

So don’t give in to procrastination
It’s time to make your reservation.
A better ticket cannot be bought
For a smorgasbord of thought.

The OGF Conference is the place to be
If you want to master philanthropy.
Each session addresses a grantmaking concern
So come to Columbus…we promise you’ll learn!

September 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Calling all Grantmakers

Philanthropy Foward '11It’s time to register for OGF’s annual conference, Philanthropy Forward ’11, our  signature event developed to connect grantmakers like you to the people and ideas that matter the most. OGF puts it on, but it’s all about you – what you need to know, who you want to hear from and how you want to network with your colleagues. And, all the info you need about your once-a-year chance to network and learn with your Ohio colleagues is online, complete with the schedule, discounts and registration for the October 24 -26 conference.

To pique your curiosity, this year we’ve posted our interviews with David LaPiana, Abby Levine, Sherece West and others. And, don’t miss the video of conference chair John Mullaney talking it up with Mary Sobecki.

In interviews done by an outside consultant this summer, OGF conference attendees talked about why they value our annual conference, and we’re happy to share some of those thoughts with you.

Small investment. Big return.
Two days out of the office yields big returns as you learn from experts, access new ideas, share insights, grow your network and take home tools and resources for everyday use.

Time well spent.
There will never be enough time in the day. So, it’s about making time for the right opportunities – those that advance your work and career – which is exactly what Philanthropy Forward ’11 promises to do.

A cost-effective opportunity.
Some call it a bargain. Others think it’s priced just right. And nobody calls it too expensive for the experience, according to feedback from last year’s Philanthropy Forward conference.

Keeping it real by making it relevant.
Simply put, your priorities set ours for the annual conference. We keep Philanthropy Forward tightly focused on what’s happening in Ohio and in your organization: relevant content that’s applicable and transferable to your work. Period.

Let’s talk philanthropy – see you in Columbus this October.

August 23, 2011 at 8:28 am Leave a comment

Harnessing the Power of Technology

There is hardly any aspect of life today that is not impacted by advances in mobile and internet technology – from the way we do our banking and shopping, to how we educate our children or care for the sick. Recent events in the Middle East are powerful examples of the influence of social media. Contemporary Thomas Paines now use handheld mobile devices to communicate their message, much to the chagrin of long established, and now often former, leaders.

Organized philanthropy has been understandably slow to adopt these new forms of technology to their daily operations. Generally conservative in nature, foundations are reluctant to make changes unless clear benefits can be demonstrated. Yet, technology’s impact on contemporary life is so pervasive that few foundations are still immune to their effects. Nowadays most have websites; many encourage online submission of grant proposals and reports; and increasing numbers boast Facebook pages and leaders who can be followed on Twitter.

Yet as dramatic as these changes are when compared to the way foundations operated 20 years ago, they are mere shadows of what is yet to come. Instead of looking at digital technologies as optional business equipment, philanthropy now sees them as essential tools in the service of social change and impact. By harnessing the power of these new technologies, foundations are dramatically increasing the impact they can have on local communities. The possibilities for information gathering and strategy development are greatly enhanced, while demands for greater transparency and accountability can be accommodated much more easily. For example, does not the fact that two-thirds of the people in the world today have access to mobile phones change the way foundations plan programs or evaluate the projects they fund? When instant feedback is available through the cell phones of the target population, focus groups and online surveys can serve very different purposes and mid-course program adjustments can be more informed, effective and timely than ever before.

In the coming months, OGF will offer webinars, workshops and other resources on the impact that technology is having on foundations today and how you can use these tools more effectively in your work. Special sessions are also planned for this year’s Annual Conference in Columbus, October 24-26. We encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about how philanthropy is meeting the challenge of a new day.

Thank you for your interest and support.

George Espy
President, Ohio Grantmakers Forum

June 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

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