Big year for Juvenile Diabetes chapter

GREENSBORO, N.C. — 2011 was a banner year for the Piedmont Triad Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The chapter raised over $2.5 million from events in 2011, an increase of over $1 million from the previous year, says Marlee Foster, development manager.

And Mike Conrad, the chapter’s executive director, was named “Staff Person of the Year” by JDRF International, which has over 100 chapters.

Conrad was cited for “extraordinary leadership and stewardship of the chapter” and for delivering 150 percent of the chapter’s annual net revenue budget.

The chapter in 2011 raised $1.3 million at its annual Hope Gala; over $170,000 at its High Point Walk; over $50,000 at its Blanton Vogler Golf Tournament; nearly $35,000 by participating in three JDRF Ride to Cure cycling events; over $380,000 at its Greensboro Walk; over $165,000 at its Burlington Walk; over $26,000 at its first-ever Asheboro Volunteer Walk; and over $380,000 at its Winston-Salem Walk.

New financing emerges for social innovation

“Social impact bonds,” which raise private investment capital to fund prevention and early-intervention social programs, with government repaying investors only if the work improves social outcomes, represent a “promising new product” that could become a multi-billion-dollar source of growth capital to fund effective social programs, a new white paper says.

“Social impact bonds offer an innovative way to scale what works,” says the white paper, prepared by Social Finance Inc. and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.

“If they work as hoped, proven innovations will no longer languish for years as service providers struggle to access the capital needed to complement the limited funds currently available from government and philanthropy,” says the white paper, A New Tool for Scaling Impact: How Social Impact Bonds Can Mobilize Private Capital to Advance Social Good.

The world’s first social impact bond was launched in September 2010 in Britain by Social Finance Ltd., sister organization of Social Finance Inc., and targeted at reducing prison recidivism, the white paper says.

In May 2011, it says, Massachusetts became the first state to take formal steps to create a program to use social impact bonds, targeting the expansion of support for chronically homeless adults and youth existing the juvenile-justice system.

While the U.S. is home to nearly one million charities that “provide vital services to vulnerable individuals and communities” and use innovation to address “intractable social problems,” the white paper says, those groups “collectively serve on a small fraction of those in need.”

Limited funding, it says, particularly the lack of long-term funding, “constrains nonprofits’ growth and contributes to a high degree of fragmentation within the social sector.”

Even nonprofits with the “strongest track records,” it says, cannot “significantly expand their services and benefit a wider portion of the population.”

While they may not provide a solution, the paper says, social impact bonds “might provide a unique way to make effective interventions available to far more people in need than the number that can be reached through traditional state contracts and philanthropy.”

The best candidates for the bonds, it says, are nonprofits with “strong track records of improving outcomes for a well-defined population.”

Programs that would be funded would be “evidence-based,” with evidence showing that their prevention and intervention strategies work.

Those results “translate into government savings that can be achieved within a relatively short time-frame and are large enough to cover the program’s cost and a reasonable return to investors.”

The paper says “dedicated intermediaries” will be critical to the success of social impact bonds.

Their role would be to originate deals, secure government contracts, structure the bond instruments, and issue the bonds.

And throughout the five-to-10-year life of the bonds, intermediaries would play a key role in managing complex projects, mitigating risks, and helping service providers achieve target outcomes.

If the bonds work and the market grows, the paper says, the bonds could “influence larger shifts within the nonprofit, government and investing communities.

The new source of capital, based on “demonstrated results,” would encourage nonprofits to “develop robust data-collection methods, create performance metrics, and measure social outcomes,” the paper says.

With “greater market discipline and transparency within the social sector,” it says, governments would have access to “better data that enable rigorous assessment of various program alternatives and inform responsible public investment.”

Government also might begin to “measure success using outcomes rather than outputs, driving greater accountability within the public sector.”

The bonds also will “promote the transition from siloed government programs to broader thinking” about how interventions on issues such as housing affect outcomes on other issues such as health care.

“Cross-agency collaboration will encourage better use of public resources and possibly advance new solutions to some of society’s most pervasive and intractable problems,” the paper says.

The bonds also might influence the creation of other “impact investing products and similarly monetize social outcomes to calculate investor repayment and returns,” it says.

Passage Home targets cycle of poverty

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In the Garner Road community in southeast Raleigh, median household income is $11,308, 52.5 percent of residents live below the poverty line, and 42.7 percent of residents age 25 and older do not have a high-school diploma.

Passage Home, a nonprofit formed in 1991, is working to try to break the cycle of poverty in the community.

Operating with an annual budget of $3.5 million, a staff of 18 people working full-time and six working part-time, and over 590 volunteers, the agency serves about 1,000 individuals a year.

Passage Home provides housing and support services, for example, for about 130 families a year in housing units it owns and manages.

It also serves roughly 25 women a year through its prison re-entry program, and about 50 youth through its after-school program.

And last year it gave 500 book bags to kids, a total it aims to double this year.

Now, to keep up with growing demand for services, and to support new initiatives such as a plan to develop community gardens, Passage Home is stepping up its fundraising efforts.

“We’re really looking to capture more individual and corporate donors, and not have to depend as much on state funding and other grants,” says Karis Lovett Tomkins, who joined the agency in October as chief development officer after working as head of global sales for Cmed, a contract research organization that focuses on clinical research.

Passage Home, for example, operates the Raleigh Safety Club and Community Center, which provides after-school tutoring and enrichment and other programs such as job workshops for the Garner Road neighborhood.

Last fall, in partnership with Strong Women Organizing Outrageous Project, or SWOOP, Passage Home opened a community garden across the street from the community center.

While the garden serves mainly as a teaching tool for neighborhood kids, it also represents a pilot project for a larger urban-agriculture initiative Passage Home plans to launch this year.

In a partnership with the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, the philanthropy created by the Olympic gold-medalist, Passage Home plans to create community gardens throughout the community.

This year, in partnership with Bayer Crop Sciences, for example, it plans to create a garden near property it owns at the Brown Birch Apartments.

“The idea is to create community gardens, and also create a path for the community itself to take part in other urban-agriculture initiatives,” Tomkins says.

The gardens would provide micro-business opportunities for local residents, teaching tools for students, and sources of healthy food for the community, she says.

The effort also reflects the emerging fundraising strategy at Passage Home, which aims to expand its individual donor base and develop more corporate partnerships.

Two of the agency’s biggest supporters, for example, are Bayer Crop Science, and Cargill, Tomkins says.

Passage Home also just opened a thrift store at 2418 Crabtree Boulevard, and plans this year to launch a program for homeless veterans.

“I really want people to experience what we’re doing here and what our mission is,” Tomkins says, “and that’s to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, one family at a time.”

Nonprofits need time to think

By Todd Cohen

In the face of unprecedented storm and stress in the charitable marketplace, nonprofits need to be thinking smarter about how to work better.

While taking time to think about how to improve operations and programs must seem like a luxury these days, it has become an urgent necessity.

Innovation does not have to produce a groundbreaking new program or business process.

It can be as simple as rededicating an organization to its core mission through client services and a back-office that are streamlined and highly focused on tracking and achieving results.

Getting back to basics, in fact, can be precisely the innovation that many nonprofits need most.

But whether it involves pioneering a new program or improving a tried-and-true business process, innovation requires thought, which first requires commitment and support from a nonprofit’s funders, board and CEO.

Yet as often as not, if not more so, that kind of investment and leadership for nonprofits can be absent without leave.

Far too many funders and boards are clueless about the needs of the organizations they support and oversee, unwilling even to try to find out what their problems are, and too passive or inept to take action if they do happen to stumble on the fact that their organizations are in trouble.

And far too many CEOs try to run their organizations by enabling if not demanding business as usual, and by controlling information instead of sharing it with staff members or encouraging them to think for themselves and work with one another to identify and solve problems.

The corporate culture at too many nonprofits, in short, is akin to that of government agencies or other public institutions in its mediocrity, its dysfunction and its reinforcement of problems by ignoring them or denying they exist.

Far too many nonprofits take employees for granted, treating them like hired help who are supposed to follow orders, and not think, take chances or question decisions.

That culture of dysfunction also works to crush original thinking before it even has a prayer of beginning to sprout.

Funders, nonprofit trade groups and consultants also have become obsessed with the idea of collaboration, an idea that they have pushed on nonprofits, which in turn have paid lip service to collaboration through seemingly endless meetings that result in few if any actual decisions or results.

None of these approaches are strategies designed to foster the innovation nonprofits need if they are going to survive and thrive.

 

 

Two recent articles in The New York Times underscored the value and critical role of individual thinking in powering innovation.

In “The Rise of the New Groupthink,” Susan Cain wrote on Jan. 15 that research “strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

And in “True Innovation,” Jon Gertner wrote on Feb. 2 that the success of Bell Labs, the legendary research-and-development arm of AT&T that for many years was “the most innovative scientific organization in the world”, was rooted in the freedom and time its leader gave employees to create, and to help one another create.

While most nonprofits are not in business to produce innovative research or products, tnonprofit sector overall serves both as civic society’s safety net, and also as its research-and-development arm.

Nonprofits, in short, serve as labs for developing and delivering strategies to address the symptoms as well as the causes of our most pressing social and global problems.

Yet instead of investing in efforts to build up their organizational capacity, funders and donors traditionally have expected nonprofits to do more with less.

Nonprofit boards, in turn, and too often CEOs, swallow those expectations whole and demand the same of their staff, finding it easier to pander to funders and donors than to speak honestly to them about any capacity problems at their organizations.

Funders, donors, boards and CEOS find it even easier to justify their unrealistic demands of staff in today’s grim economy, which has escalated demand for services from nonprofits while compounding the financial and operating pressures they face.

The warped logic of funders and donors seems to be that the nonprofits they support should stretch every dollar they receive to make an impact on clients, rather than making any investment in thinking or planning, even thought that kind of investment can lead to improvements that will better serve clients.

And the sad logic of boards and CEOs seems to be to pander to their donors and funders for fear that questioning their unrealistic expectations or speaking honestly about organizational problems will risk the loss of their funding.

But while they can be quick to posture and issue directives, funders, donors, boards and often CEOs are not the people who actually must deliver services and run the back-office.

The job of actually doing all that work lies with the staff, and the pressure they face leaves little time to think.

Time to think, however, is fundamental to improving an organization and the services it provides.

So nonprofit boards and CEOs, and the donors and funders who support their organizations, need to find ways to encourage and foster creative thinking by the staff.

Google, for example, encourages its engineers to spend 20 percent of their work time, or one day a week, on projects that interest them, creative thinking that has sown the seeds for some of the company’s big new services, such as Gmail and Google News.

As numerous studies have shown, the ailing economy has pushed nonprofits to the edge, and a growing number are sinking fast or shutting down.

Yet while it may seem like an indulgence in these tough times, taking the time to think creatively is essential for the health and future of individual nonprofits, the charitable marketplace and the social economy.

Funders and donors, as well as nonprofit boards and CEOs, need to step up, show true leadership, and find ways to stimulate and tap the creative thinking of nonprofit staff.

Firms seen breaking social pledges

Many corporations promise to become socially responsible but fail to change, a new study says.

The study, by two sociologists at the University of Michigan, also says corporations in developed countries are more likely than those in developing countries “to make shallow commitments without substance” in response to external pressures from government and citizens to take socially-responsible actions.

Faced with the same external pressures, the study says, some corporations in developing countries make more substantive commitments to corporate social responsibility.

So while global efforts to promote responsible corporate behavior “are producing conscientious efforts” by corporations in developing countries, the researchers say, corporations in developed countries “who pay a lot of lip services to social responsibility are not delivering on their promises.”

The study, Globalization and Commitment in Corporate Social Responsibility, was published online Dec. 22, 2011, in the American Sociological Review.

Written by Alwyn Lim, a doctoral student in sociology, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui, an assistant professor of sociology, it is based on an analysis of data on the levels of commitment to social responsibility among corporations in 99 developed and developing countries.

The researchers found that global factors, such as pressure from international nongovernmental organizations and trade relationships, encourage corporations throughout the world to pledge to improve their social and environmental practices.

In developing countries, global pressures push corporations to have “relatively onerous” social-responsibility plans, such as disclosing their efforts to the United Nations and to the Global Reporting Initiative, a nongovernmental agency that supports sustainability reporting, the study says.

In developed countries, however, companies “tend to make shallower commitments and fail to submit rigorous reports” on their social-responsibility promises, it says.

Those patterns may reflect different attitudes to corporate practices in developed and developing countries, the study says, holding constant other factors such as how receptive a country’s residents are to ideas of corporate social responsibility.

Corporations in market economies that are more liberal, the study says, may be using corporate social responsibility “to avoid government regulations.”

And in the face of “cut-throat economic competition that mandates corporations to maximize profile and shareholder returns,” the researchers say, “a surprisingly large number of corporations commit to social responsibility that often does not generate immediate or tangible results.”

Still, the study says, “as ideas of corporate social responsibility become more prominent, more corporations will be held accountable to their promises to improve social and environmental practices.”

Greensboro nonprofit boosts Haitian orphanage

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every other month, visiting physicians staff a small clinic at Pwoje Espwe Sud, or Project Hope, a home and refuge in southwestern Haiti for orphaned and vulnerable children.

For a week to 10 days for each visit, with the clinic equipped to handle up to five patients at a time, the visiting doctors – including three from Greensboro who visit once a year — see patients from the region, and the waiting lines can extend for up to half a mile.

But this spring, Project Hope plans to open a new regional clinic where doctors will be able to see 20 patients at a time.

Raising money for the new clinic is Free the Kids, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that has the sole mission of supporting Project Hope.

One of the largest employers in the city of Les Cayes, Project Hope employs 220 people and operates on a 140-acre campus that houses 61 buildings, including 32 dormitories for children.

Project Hope serves as an orphanage for 650 children, provides an education for 2,300 children from pre-school through high school as well as vocational training for young adults, serves 3,000 people at year at its clinic, and serves 3,800 meals a day.

“We’re the largest orphanage, as far as we know, in the western hemisphere,” says Jack Reynolds, director of operations for Free the Kids and the brother-in-law of Father Marc Boisvert, a Catholic priest and former U.S. Navy chaplain who founded Project Hope in 1998.

Free the Kids employs only two paid staff, including Reynolds, who worked as a volunteer until 2008, even after his retirement in 2002 from U.S. Steel as northeast regional sales manager, as well as a development director.

The Greensboro nonprofit raised about $3.1 million in its most recent fiscal year, up from $2.9 million the previous year, when fundraising surged by $700,000 in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, a natural disaster that resulted in a temporary increase of 150 resident children at Project Hope.

“We’re back to 650 because we don’t want to be strictly an orphanage,” Reynolds says. “We want to, wherever possible, find relatives and extended families for these children, and return them to their families.”

Project Hope provides food, medicine and education once children return to their extended families, he says.

To address the continuing needs of children and families in southwestern Haiti suffering the effects of poverty, Project Hope is planning to expand several of its programs.

Project Hope, which increasingly has expanded its education program to include vocational training for young adults in trades such as masonry, carpentry and bicycle mechanics, now plans to launch a school of entrepreneurship that will focus on how to begin and run a business.

Free the Kids hopes to raise $1.5 million for the new program.

Project Hope also plans to build a new kitchen and dining complex that will cost $235,000 to build and total over 12,000 square feet, dwarfing current cooking and dining facilities.

Free the Kids has raised all but about $20,000 of construction costs but still needs to raise money to equip the new facility, which also will serve as an assembly hall and temporary chapel.

And Project Hope recently raised $38,000 to buy a digital X-ray machine, and hopes to raise another $50,000 to secure an in-kind gift of $500,000 in medical equipment and furnishings from IMECAmerica.org for its new clinic.