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Philanthropy

Building a Knowledge Base for the Scaling Social Impact Field

Scaling social impact – defined as focusing on increasing philanthropic and capital investments in scaling effective social programs – continues to evolve at a high speed. New growth capital opportunities, development of capital aggregation systems, and an expanding role for capital intermediaries are only a few examples of the evolution of the sector. To help inform the evolution of the sector, the Social Impact Exchange has convened a number of small working groups to further develop an understanding of scaling social impact and increase coherence in the field. The working groups engage members of the Social Impact Exchange in specific project related to scaling impact and in identifying scale ready programs for growth funding.

Increasing Donor Engagement and Embracing Impact Grantmaking

The evolution of philanthropy – with its continued embracement of metrics, outcome measurements and impact, and data – has also seen a growing emphasis on developing new ways to engage donors. Philanthropic organizations, especially those in intermediary roles, are redefining their relationships with donors. Many of them recognize the growing number of active and engaged donors who want to do more than just to write a check; they are looking for opportunities to make an impact in a more dimensional way and want more intensive engagement opportunities. To meet that need, some organizations are providing donors with more guidance and resources to make better informed charitable giving decisions, or even offering opportunities to engage in impact investing.

This trend has made its way into the federation system. Per the Jewish Federations of North America, the federation system represents 157 Jewish federations and 400 network communities, and raises and distributes more than $3 billion annually for social welfare, social services and educational needs. That places it“collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent.” Given its immense scope, there is tremendous potential to provide a wider vision of how to generate impact, and model the ability to evolve, adapt, and support new opportunities.

Can the Jewish Federation system embrace Disruptive Philanthropy?

I’m currently attending the annual gathering of Jewish community federations and affiliated communities. The gathering, known as the General Assembly (GA), focuses on issues critical to North American Jewry, Jews abroad, and the State of Israel. As explained by the Jewish Federations of North America, the system’s umbrella organization, the federation movement “represents 157 Jewish Federations and 400 Network communities, which raise and distribute more than $3 billion annually for social welfare, social services and educational needs” placing it “collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent.” In a very rough foundation analogy, that would a foundation with roughly $60 billion in assets.

That’s big; really big. And yet, the federation movement is struggling with declining donor bases, growing local community needs, and challenges to implementing effective philanthropic strategies. So, yesterday’s session on “Disruptive Philanthropy” with Diana Aviv (President and CEO, Independent Sector), Jeffery R. Solomon (President, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies), and Brian A. Gallagher (President and CEO, United Way Worldwide), promised to provide an interesting barometer of how the federation movement is embracing (or resisting) change in its grantmaking approaches.

From the Social Media Toolbag: ComNet010 on Twitter

When the Twitter hashtag for the Fall 2010 Communications Network  / CommA Conference was announced a few weeks ago, I set up the ComNet010 hashtag on What the Hashtag?! While I use any number of tools during a conference to track discussion on Twitter, What the Hashtag?! provides several functions that I really appreciate. Foremost, it allows users to generate a transcript for tweets using the correct hashtags (sadly, none of the search services can pick up on hashtags that have additional characters added to them, such as the end quotation mark that now shows up when you “quote” a post on Twitter). It also provides some statistics on the extent of the Twitter conversation.

Can Philanthropy Truly Embrace the Wisdom of Crowds?

The Fall 2010 Communications Network  / CommA Conference (ComNet010) began this morning with a presentation by James Surowiecki, author of the Balance Sheet column for the New Yorker and the book The Wisdom of Crowds, on  finding better answer and solutions through a focused efforts to engage group intelligence. The session was an excellent way to engage the audience – mostly communication personnel in philanthropic institutions – in a in-person and Twitter discussion about the potential power of using crowds to inform decision making and organizational vision. It also raised a lot of questions.

The 2009-2010 Social Impact Business Plan Competition Winners: Rubicon Emerge and the Parent-Child Home Program

This post is part of a series of posts generated through a collaboration with Geri Stengel of Ventureneer to provide a one-stop resource for insights and news from the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact, held June 17 - 18, 2010.

The Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact ended with the selection of 2009-10 Business Plan Competition winners. Eight organizations competed in the final round and were grouped in two categories: early-stage and mezzanine-stage. The early-stage finalists – organizations that have a strategy for scaling their social impact and whose initiatives are in the early stage of growth – included Benetech, Higher Achievement, North Lawndale Employment Network, and Rubicon Emerge. The mezzanine-state finalists – organizations that have significant levels of success and demand for services from their target populations, and also have demonstrated positive outcomes and defined strategies for scaling social impact – include First Book, Grameen Foundation, the Parent-Child Home Program, and ROC USA, LLC.

Five Issues Raised During Day One of the Scaling Social Impact Conference

This post is part of a series of posts generated through a collaboration with Geri Stengel of Ventureneer to provide a one-stop resource for insights and news from the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact, held June 17 - 18, 2010.

As I take a brief moment to reflect on this morning’s discussion about the need for growth capital at the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact, I’m struck by five issues that I hope will be further discussed at the conference and after it concludes:

What to Expect from the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact

This post is part of a series of posts generated through a collaboration with Geri Stengel of Ventureneer to provide a one-stop resource for insights and news from the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact, held June 17 - 18, 2010.

 

I generally don’t get excited about attending conferences. The content often is reduced to a basic level to accommodate as many people in the room and the opportunities for substantial learning and networking are limited. That said I’m eager to participate this week in the inaugural Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Social Impact

New Gates Foundation Partnership Raises Additional Conflict of Interest Concerns

In a well covered decision in April (see New York Times article, for example), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation terminated a $5.2 million grant to the International Development Research Center (IDRC) because of an unacceptable conflict of interest. IDRC, a Canadian research center, had originally received the grant to advance tobacco control work in Africa. Unfortunately, the chair of the IDRC Board of Directors also served as a Director of Imperial Tobacco Canada, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco. When this conflict came to light, the Gates Foundation immediately ended the grant (see Gates Foundation statement).

Apparently, such concerns about conflicts of interest do not extend to other areas of the foundation’s work.

What are the Critical Issues in International Grantmaking Raised at the Grantmakers Without Borders Conference?

This week foundations, international grantmaking institutions, individual donors and global Southern activities have gathered in San Francisco for the Grantmakers Without Borders (Gw/oB) annual conference. As Gw/oB marks its 10th anniversary, its conference participants continue to focus on issues of social justice, gender equity and reproductive rights, agro-ecological production and food security, and human rights. Emerging issues – such as LGBTIQ movements and the ongoing humanitarian and development needs in Haiti – have also generated strong interest.