NCGives gives new take on giving

America is changing, and so is the way we give.

As PJ reported recently, a new study says racial, ethnic and tribal communities in the U.S. are rooted in traditions of giving to support their communities, and now are looking for ways to strengthen and organize their philanthropy.

And as PJ reports today, a new initiative known as NCGives wants to change the way we give and think about giving.

NCGives is working to strengthen giving by African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Native Americans, women and young people, and to build bridges to mainstream philanthropies and help them better understand the needs of the populations it serves.

A growing number of nonprofits, working to address social problems that have become more critical and interconnected, want to tap the resources of our increasingly diverse society.

And a growing number of donors want to pitch in not only with their money, but also with their time and know-how.

As Donna Chavis, executive director of NCGives, told PJ, “There’s never going to be enough money.”

The challenge, she says, to make giving more “inclusionary” and leverage the resources, including those of traditional philanthropies, needed to address our most urgent problems.

Equally critical is the need for charitable organizations to redefine the development of the resources they need, a function traditionally known as “fundraising.”

Rather than treating donors and funding organizations as automatic teller machines, charities should be looking for ways to connect personally with donors and other partners, better understand their interests and values, and involve them and their resources in helping to shape collaborative strategies and solutions to the critical social problems we face in common.

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Green is good

The $45 billion deal to acquire Texas utility TXU should be a wakeup call for nonprofits and charitable foundations that claim they cannot play an effective role in shaping corporate policy.

Based on input from environmental groups they had enlisted in their talks with the utility, the buyers agreed to a 10-point plan that included reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and support a $400 million energy efficiency program.

While critics might see it, at least in part, as a tactic to lend credibility to the buyers and boost TXU’s bottom line, the plan also shows that the bottom line can be measured in more than dollars.

Research continues to show that companies that do good are more attractive to investors, customers, employees and prospective employees.

By stepping up their advocacy work, particularly with companies in which they already own stock, foundations and nonprofits can be more effective in persuading corporations to change policies that affect a broad range of environmental and social issues.

Sadly, many charitable organizations do not believe or realize they can or should use their role as shareholders to advance the causes they care about.

But until charities start facing and embracing the realities of the marketplace, their efforts to make change happen will be only half measures.

What do you think?

Smart giving is hard work

While many foundations are much too comfortable, others see that effective philanthropy requires moving beyond the comfort zone.

That insight was clear last week at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers.

The meeting, which attracted 130 people, looked at huge challenges like improving high schools, improving delivery of mental-health services and strengthening nonprofit “capacity.”

Reflecting on lessons the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has learned from its massive investment in U.S. high schools, including many in North Carolina, Steve Seleznow, the foundation’s program director, said foundations must understand that change takes time and they “can’t do it alone.”

Making a dent in problems that are big and complicated, he said, requires taking on systemic change; engaging communities that are involved; forming strategic partnerships; supporting those who might be hurt by the changes; working to fix policies that underlie the targeted problems; establishing clear outcomes and metrics to measure progress; and shifting gears when needed.

Many foundations are fat and lazy, and need to shake old habits and focus more on their impact and less on themselves and their power.But the grantmakers network reflects a genuine effort by foundations to work more effectively and collaboratively.

Where there’s a will…

The highly publicized fight over the will of celebrity Anna Nicole Smith underscores the need for charities to do a better job reminding donors to remember the charities in their wills.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to be able to provide for a charity in your will, but many charities fail to invest the time and effort to continually communicate to donors that a bequest to a charity is a great way for donors to make a big impact on causes they care about.

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Challenges afoot for families

A new study says several trends underway in American society, including technological advance and rising joblessness among single mothers, pose threats to the well-being of the nation’s children and families, PJ reports today.

Growing pains

Nonprofits in the U.S. are big business, and the finances of charitable nonprofits in particular are growing much faster than the national economy, PJ reports today.

PJ also reports this week that as the nonprofit sector matures and expands, a new breed of leader will be important to its success.

The growth of the sector and the leadership challenges it faces are particularly critical in the face of a growing crisis in executive burnout and turnout, tracked in recent study.

Nonprofit boards and their funders need to move fast to address this critical challenge.

Bush at war against nonprofits?

A professor of service learning at Goucher Colleges says in an opinion column in The Baltimore Sun that the Bush administration’s proposed 2008 is the newest ammo in a conservative war against nonprofits.

What is needed, he says, is for Congress to set a new progressive agenda to strengthen civic life and commit the government to solving problems the private sector cannot handle.

Engaging ‘lone rangers’

Whether they deliver charitable services or work for social change, nonprofits face the never-ending job of raising money.

Yet the traditional fundraising model, created by white men when donors generally were white men, has become obsolete in the face of sweeping changes in who controls wealth and how they give.

That was the message consultant Karla Williams delivered to over 135 people at PJ’s Feb. 13 Lunch ‘n’ Learn in Raleigh.

Women and Baby Boomers soon will dominate giving for the foreseeable future, Williams says, and nonprofits need to understand those prospective donors, and how they deal with their wealth, know-how, time and giving.

And while women and Boomers are alike in many ways, she says, each group differs, and can be subdivided, based on age, with older women and Boomers approaching their wealth and philanthropy differently than do women and Boomers who are younger.

Williams characterized Boomers in particular as “lone rangers” who will not fit neatly into traditional donor categories and fundraising strategies.

So to tap the donors they will need to help fix what is wrong in our communities, at home and abroad, nonprofits must move quickly to understand and engage the donors who are redefining philanthropy.