Services for immigrants expanding

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The first week in January, a handful of students from Leadership Greensboro volunteered at the Greensboro affiliate of Church World Service, conducting mock job interviews with immigrants participating in the agency’s employment-services program.

Since it opened in March 2009, the Greensboro affiliate has provided basic-needs assistance, case management, cultural orientation, and employment services to over 400 refugees arriving in Greensboro through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.

And last year, the affiliate launched two new initiatives, including a more intensive cultural-orientation program, and a new program that provides naturalization and citizenship services.

Church World Service and its immigration and refugee program were created in 1946 to help address the needs of refugees from Europe during World War II.

The Greensboro affiliate, which includes the immigration and refugee program, operates with an annual budget of roughly $750,000 and a staff of eight people working full-time and one working part-time, plus a full-time AmeriCorps volunteer and hourly and part-time interpreters.

With a capacity-building grant of $116,000 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Greensboro affiliate last summer hired a full-time attorney to provide eligibility screening and legal assistance to applicants, and a full-time civics-education coordinator to oversee a broad range of civics classes to help applicants prepare to pass the citizenship exam.

Sarah Ivory, director of the affiliate, says it is a misconception that immigrants who are not citizens are not in the U.S. lawfully.

Many immigrants have not become citizens for a lot of reasons, she says, mainly because they lack access to resources and cannot afford the $645 fee to apply for citizenship.

The process itself can take four to six months, and refugees are not eligible to apply for citizenship for five years after arriving in the U.S., she says.

And the process of becoming a citizen, known as “naturalization,” can be tough for many immigrants, she says

Many immigrants may not know if they are eligible for citizenship or how to go about becoming a citizen, for example, and the immigration laws and legal application are complicated, she says.

And applicants must take a multi-part test that includes civics as well as reading, writing and speaking in English, Ivory says, a test for which they may not be prepared.

Fifty students enrolled in the inaugural class on citizenship and naturalization the affiliate launched last fall, including five who already had started their naturalization application process and now have taken the test and been naturalized.

The affiliate in its first year mainly resettled a large number of ethnic Vietnamese who had been living in forced-reeducation camps or under military supervision in Vietnam and were granted safety in the U.S. under the McCain amendment approved by Congress.

The main refugee populations the office now serves are from Burma and Bhutan, two of the largest groups currently being resettled throughout the U.S.

All newly-arrived refugees in the U.S. go through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, a program of the Department of State that is offered throughout the country by agencies like Church World Service.

All resettlement services are free, with a federal stipend that covers refugees’ expenses during their first months and must be spent within 90 days on needs such as housing, food, case management and employment services.

Church World Service buys groceries for refugees before they arrive, for example, and helps them apply for food stamps; arranges for donated furniture to be moved to their housing, and for the purchase of household items; meets refugee families at the airport; and helps orient refugees to the community and culture.

Employment services include recording refugees’ job history, helping them prepare resumes, and providing job-readiness skills such as how to handle a job interview.

The new cultural orientation program, offered in partnership with community experts, consists of a three-week program, five mornings a week, that looks at issues such using public transportation, buying groceries, understanding housing rights, taking care of an apartment, and learning about good health and nutrition.

The agency also plans to expand its legal services and naturalization and citizenship services to Burlington, Siler City and High Point in partnership with local agencies in those communities, where the immigrant population is mainly Latino.

And, thanks to a $10,000 gift from Congregational United Church of Christ, the affiliate is opening a computer lab that will provide training in basic computer skills, online job searching, and computer-based English-language training.

Nonprofits urged to improve financial literacy

Nonprofits are making better use of metrics and other tools to inform their financial decision-making but still have a lot of room to improve, a new report says.

While 76 percent of over 500 nonprofit financial-management professionals responding to a survey consider themselves to be knowledgeable in financial principles and concepts, for example, 17 percent see themselves as novices in terms of their level of financial knowledge, says Financial Literacy and Knowledge in the Nonprofit Sector, a report from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Only 6.9 percent of respondents consider themselves to be financial experts, says the study, which was sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation.

And most nonprofits are lagging on some key financial functions, the report says.

Only 39.3 percent or organizations surveyed reported they had an audit committee, for example, and only 26.5 percent said their board was “very involved” in carrying out the task of financial scenario planning.

Nonprofit financial management has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, the report says, and “monitoring mechanisms” such as audit committees have taken on a more prominent role.

Members of audit committees, which are charged with helping the board of directors “maintain the organization’s overall integrity, financial credibility and long-term viability,” face greater scrutiny than ever as a result of an increased focus on good governance and fiscal responsibility, the report says.

“This report underscores the need for many nonprofit organizations to assess their financial monitoring mechanisms in light of the environment of analysis and accountability,” it says.

Nonprofit managers are aware it is important to be able forecast based on external factors, the report says, yet few board members are actively involved in financial scenario planning, the report says.

Scenario planning, it says, “increases an organization’s capability to more skillfully observe its environment, leading to more robust long-term organizational learning.”

To help measure “financial literacy,” or “the knowledge and skills of basic economic and financial concepts, as well as the ability to apply this knowledge in order to manage financial resources effectively,” survey respondents were asked three questions about bond prices and interest rates, investment risk, and diversification.

Among those responding, 36.4 percent answered all three questions correctly, while 32 percent answered two questions correctly.

Financial literacy grew with the number of courses respondents had taken in accounting, economics, operations and financial management, and with the size of organizational revenue.

And 49.8 percent of male respondents answered all three questions correctly, compared to 39.3 percent of female respondents, a statistically significant difference, the report says, although one that did not control for other possible factors, such as years of employment or years of education.

Junior League invests in women, community

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At KIPP Charlotte, a charter school that is part of the Knowledge Is Power Program national network of over 100 tuition-free, college-preparatory public schools, a new initiative focuses on leadership development for middle-school girls.

Created by the Junior League of Charlotte in partnership with other local nonprofits, the initiative aims to help girls address challenges they face or will face such as self-esteem, issues related to their bodies, and finding a voice.

League volunteers are responsible for planning meetings, lining up speakers and interacting with girls in the program, and the organization supports it with an $8,000 grant.

The effort is one of 20 programs that this year will receive funds and volunteers from the League, which also is launching a new “Cornerstone” project that will focus on the dental, mental and physical health of Charlotte-area children, with an emphasis on the importance of family decisions and their impact on children.

Formed in 1926, the League has provided millions of volunteer hours and over $12.5 million to the community.

With over 2,000 members, including over 770 who are active and over 70 more who are training to become members, the League operates with an annual budget of $1 million and a staff of seven people working full-time.

It will contribute nearly $157,000 and 485 volunteers to 20 community programs in the fiscal year that ends May 31, volunteers who will contribute an estimated 19,400 hours that will be worth over $414,000.

“We absolutely develop the potential of women,” says Katie Zeok, a vice president and senior change consultant at Bank of America who this year is serving as president and board chair for the League.

“We also train our volunteers so they are able to go out in the community and not only promote the Junior League but in later years serve on other nonprofit boards or volunteer with other nonprofits,” says Zeok.

In recent years, the League has seen a surge in women in their late 40s to mid-50s who join the organization as “provisionals,” undergoing a six-month training program before they become active members.

“The economic downturn has really made a difference in people wanting to give back,” says Zeok, who at 33 became the League’s youngest president ever.

Seventy-five percent of League members work outside the home, with two-thirds of them volunteering at the 20 nonprofits the League supports, and the remainder volunteering for the League itself, handling a broad range of responsibilities.

Among the 20 community nonprofits where they volunteer, Junior League members volunteer during the day at only two of those groups because most of them have day jobs.

As president, Zeok volunteers full-time in addition to her full-time job at Bank of America.

In her two years as president-elect and president, she will have volunteered a total of 3,200 hours for the League.

Over the years, the League has taken on Cornerstone projects to meet needs that were not being met in the community, many of them involving “bricks-and-mortar” projects.

Past projects include Charlotte Children’s Theatre, Charlotte Nature Museum, Charlotte Speech and Hearing, Double Oaks Family Resource Center and Levine Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center.

In addition to member dues and interest from its $1.2 million endowment, the League last year generated over $600,000 from its WearHouse thrift store and $44,000 from its annual “Lights! Camera! Fashion!” fundraising event sponsored by Belk.

In addition to developing the potential of women, Zeok says, a key goal of the Junior League is to “improve the community.”

Funders need to listen

By Todd Cohen

Paying attention to the needs of clients is a critical skill and “best practice” that many funders seem to sorely lack.

Funders are quick to preach to the nonprofits they fund about the need to “engage” their own constituents so they can be more responsive and effective in their programs and fundraising.

But when it comes to their own shops, funders seem less like welcome wagons for the community and more akin to fortresses protected by moats and drawbridges.

A new study, based on a survey sponsored by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, or GEO, and conducted by TCC Groups, says grantmakers that are using strategies to listen to and learn from grant recipients are more likely to provide the kind of support nonprofits need to thrive.

That includes general operating support, multi-year funding, and grants to help nonprofits build their operating “capacity,” says the study, which surveyed 755 grantmaking organizations.

Increasing those types of funding is needed to help nonprofits “address the ever-changing needs in their communities” and represents “one of the most critical decisions a funder could have made in the past several years,” says J McCray, author of the study and chief operating officer at GEO.

The study finds that, on the whole, “progress across the foundation field has been generally slow” in terms of providing those kinds of support, a trend it says is “not surprising given the kinds of pressures facing the nonprofit sector and philanthropy.”

And it says most grantmakers “did not significantly change their stakeholder engagement practices” during the troubled economy of the past three years, a trend it calls “disappointing,” although it says “stability during turmoil and the fact that there was little backsliding may represent no small accomplishment.”

Still, it found what “appears to be a connection between stakeholder engagement practices with grantmakers making smarter decisions about what to do with their funds to better support grantees.”

And the study identified a possible “shift in the way that funders see themselves and their role in supporting nonprofits.”

Funders, it says, are looking for additional ways “to stay plugged in, including feedback from grantees to help strengthen their performance.”

If they truly want to help nonprofits build their capacity to help people and places in need, funders should do more than simply talk about “engagement” and actually begin to practice it.

That means finding ways to truly listen to nonprofits and the communities they serve, and then providing the kind of funding that will boost nonprofits’ ability to learn, lead and grow.

UNC-Chapel Hill mulls campaign

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — At a meeting early in 2008, the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill talked about when the school might begin the quiet phase of a comprehensive campaign that would aim to raise $3.5 billion to $4 billion.

Spirits were running high: In December 2007, UNC had wrapped up an eight-year campaign that raised $2.38 billion, which at the time was the fifth-largest campaign completed by any university in the U.S.

In fall 2008, however, the capital markets collapsed, triggering a recession and prompting the school to put its campaign plans on hold.

With the economy sinking and individuals’ net worth dropping, “donors would have been extremely cautious and we didn’t think we would be able to generate any kind of momentum for a campaign,” says Matt Kupec, UNC’s vice chancellor for university advancement.

“The timing just wasn’t right,” he says.

Still, UNC pursued an aggressive strategy for it ongoing fundraising, he says, “continuing to meet with people and to share the vision of the institution, and to talk about ways donors’ giving could make an impact.”

The effort paid off: In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, UNC raised $277 million in cash gifts, its second-best annual total ever, eclipsed only by the $301 million it raised in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008, just before the economy crashed.

Now, Kupec says, UNC has resumed internal discussions about launching a new campaign.

While no decisions have been made, he says, the quiet phase of the campaign could begin within 12 months with a goal that likely would exceed the total raised in the last campaign but fall shy of the range anticipated before the plans for a new campaign were put on hold.

“It’s all very, very early,” he says.

The time between campaigns at colleges and universities has become shorter in the past 20 years, and it has now been over four years since UNC ended its last campaign, he says.

And while UNC receives a recurring annual state appropriation of $470 million, or about 18 percent of its annual budget, he says, private support increasingly is taking on a more important role.

“There’s a whole discussion around scholarships and financial aid and financial need,” he says.

UNC meets 100 percent of its students’ demonstrated financial need, for example, yet “there are increasing pressures on money provided by the state,” and on federal Pell grants for students, Kupec says.

The main priorities for a campaign likely will be supporting students and faculty, including funds to boost the school’s $2.2 billion endowment.

A campaign also might require increasing the university’s fundraising staff, which now totals the equivalent of 211 full-time employees.

In its most recent fiscal year, UNC spent about 9.7 cents for every dollar it raised, a rate the school has maintained for at least 20 years, Kupec says.

While the cost of fundraising likely will not increase in a campaign, he says, the staff likely will.

UNC, which is installing a new software system for its alumni development, also expects new commitments by donors to grow by about $50 million to $100 million a year during the next campaign, Kupec says.

In fiscal 1992, the year he joined UNC as associate vice chancellor for development, he says, annual cash giving totaled $53 million.

With Baby Boomers beginning to retire, efforts to secure major gifts and deferred gifts will take on increasing importance, he says, as will the use of social media and other technology to communicate with donors and keep them informed about the impact of their gifts.

The school also will be connecting donors with opportunities to support strategic initiatives at the school that focus on water and energy, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship, efforts that will give donors the opportunity to have a big impact on critical issues, Kupec says.

“We truly can have a significant role,” he says, “in helping to solve the world’s problems.”

‘Green’ funding seen tilted to bigger advocates

Environmental funders are spending too little money on advocacy work to protect low-income areas and communities of color from environmental degradation, a new report says.

From 2007 to 2009, only 15 percent of environmental grant dollars were classified as benefiting “marginalized” communities, and only 11 percent were classified as advancing “social-justice” strategies, a “proxy for policy advocacy and community organizing that works toward structural change on behalf of those who are least well off politically, economically and socially,” says Cultivating the Grassroots, a report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

In the same period, the report says, grant dollars donated by funders who committed over 25 percent of their total dollars to the environment were three times less likely to be classified as benefiting marginalized groups than were grant dollars given by environmental funders in general.

Environmental funders “are expending tremendous resources, yet spending far too little on high-impact, cost-effective grassroots organizing,” the report says.

In 2009, it says, half of all environmental grants went to environmental organizations with annual budgets over $5 million, a group that represents only 2 percent of the nearly 29,000 environment and climate public charities in the U.S.

That suggests a “predominantly ‘inside-the-beltway’ top-down fundraising strategy,” Sarah Hansen, author of the report, says in a statement.

“There are many effective pro-environment organizations on the ground that are under-resourced and underutilized,” she says. “By overlooking these grassroots groups and communities ripe for mobilizing to protect our environment from harm, philanthropy is marginalizing proven vehicles of social change and thus seeing less impact and progress.”

The report calls for environment and climate funders to provide at least 20 percent of their grant dollars to community-based groups that work to address the needs of underserved people most affected by environmental harm.

It also recommends those funders invest at least 25 percent of their grant dollars in grassroots organizing, advocacy and civic participation.

And it encourages them to “take a long view by building the infrastructure needed to succeed and preparing for tipping points.”

The report says more “environmental wins” can be secured “by decreasing reliance on top-down funding strategies and increasing funding for grassroots communities that are directly impacted by environmental harms and have the passion and perseverance to mobilize and demand change.”

Aaron Dorman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says in a statement that winning big fights depends on popular support.

“Philanthropy needs to fund those groups that listen to people in communities that are most at risk from the impacts of environment and climate change, organize them and rally their support around important solutions,” he says.