Teamwork urged for fixing communities

By Todd Cohen

Taking on urgent community problems is a tough job that requires new ways of thinking and working together, a new report says.

In Needle-Moving Community Collaboratives, a report based on a look at hundreds of community partnerships throughout the U.S., The Bridgespan Group found some common “operating principles” at 12 partnerships it considered to be successful.

Those include a “commitment to long-term involvement;” the involvement of “key stakeholders” across sectors; the use of shared data “to set the agenda and improve over time;” and the engagement of community members as “substantive partners.”

The report also finds five common elements that are essential to the success of community collaboratives, including a “shared vision and agenda;” effective leadership and governance; “alignment of resources toward what works,” as well as the use of data to “continually adapt;” dedicated staff capacity” and “appropriate structure” that links “talk to action;” and “sufficient” funding, targeting investments “to support what works.”

The report says most of the “ingredients” for a successful collaborative must be “locally grown.”

But it also says collaboratives can benefit from some key resources provided by institutions beyond the community, such as state and federal government, national networks and national philanthropy.

Those institutions can increase the “visibility and legitimacy” of a collaborative’s work; support policy and environmental change; provide support for knowledge and implementation; provide funding for the collaborative’s infrastructure and implementation; and help push for greater community partnership.

To achieve the efforts by communities as they struggle to find ways to better address their biggest challenges and “achieve more impact,” the report says, “government, community members, nonprofits, philanthropy and business must pull together.”

Those partners, it says, “must create common goals and singleness of purpose around what works, supported by adequate resources and outstanding leadership.”

 

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Catholic foundation counts on gift planning

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After dropping 15.6 percent to $15.1 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, the period that included the collapse of the economy, assets at The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte grew by nearly $1.8 million and $4.7 million, respectively, the next two years.

In each of those three years, including the year the markets plunged, bequest gifts to the foundation totaled $1.3 million.

Those gifts reflect a strategy the foundation actively has pursued since its founding in 1994 to encourage donors to make planned gifts, or those that are deferred such as bequests, trusts or charitable gift annuities, says Judy Smith, director of planned giving for the foundation.

“If you’re consistent, you will build a pipeline of bequest gifts, and that’s certainly been made obvious during the recession,” she says. “Annual funds may have suffered, but if you had a mature planned-giving program, you would continue to receive bequest gifts.”

The foundation’s gift-planning strategy recently yielded its 200th endowment gift, bringing its total assets to over $20 million for the first time.

Formed to provide financial security for the diocese, which serves 92 parishes and missions, 19 Catholic schools and 20 diocesan agencies in 46 counties in western North Carolina, the foundation raises endowment funds that generate income.

That endowment income helps pay for parish maintenance, seminarian education, faith-formation programs, tuition assistance, food pantries and outreach programs.

The foundation also distributes grants that focus on the poor, minority communities and evangelical initiatives.

In the most recent fiscal year, it awarded a total of $41,000 in grants to 19 churches, schools and agencies.

And in the first nine months of the fiscal year that ends June 30, it received $147,627 that created seven new funds, including two bequest gifts totaling $79,914.

Endowment gifts can take a variety of forms.

A member of the diocese and his wife, for example, made provisions in their wills to leave bequests to an endowment they agreed to create at the foundation, Smith says.

But after she died, he decided to give $100,000 to the endowment while he still was alive in addition to the bequest gift in his will.

Endowment funds also can grow through gifts from donors other than those who created the endowments.

Father Ed Sheridan, a retired priest who lives in Hickory, established an endowment with a gift of $52,714 to provide tuition assistance for students at Asheville Catholic School.

Sheridan had served parishes in Asheville, Brevard, Charlotte, Hickory and Winston-Salem, and was superintendent of schools for the diocese in 1972.

After a story about his gift appeared in the Catholic News Herald, the diocesan newspaper, the endowment received another $7,000 from other donors.

In addition to talking with individual donors about their gift planning, Smith works with parishes, schools and other agencies in the diocese to help them establish new endowment funds or grow existing funds, and to help make their parishioners aware of those funds.

Those groups, as well as any nonprofit, can begin a planned-giving program by identifying donors who have given to their annual fund consistently for six to eight years, letting them know about gift planning, and promoting planned giving on the organization’s website and in its newsletter and other publications, Smith says.

It also is important to recognize donors who have made planned gifts. Through its Catholic Heritage Society, for example, the foundation has recognized nearly 900 donors who have agreed to make a planned gift to the diocese.

And patience is critical.

“Don’t start and stop,” Smith says. “Make a commitment to it.”

 

Nonprofits hiring from outside sector

Most nonprofits over the past five years hired executives from outside the nonprofit world, a new study says.

Among over 500 U.S. nonprofits surveyed by The Alexander Group, a search firm, 60.6 percent hired executives from outside the sector, says the 2012 Survey of Hiring Trends at nonprofits.

Among nonprofits that hired outside the sector, 84.2 percent said their new executives adjusted extremely well to the nonprofit world

And among nonprofits that hired outside the sector and whose executives adjusted extremely well to the nonprofit world, 52.6 percent reported only minor issues in adjusting to the nonprofit environment, while 31.6 percent reported no issues in adjusting.

Still, hiring executives were split evenly on whether candidates’ lack of previous nonprofit experience was a factor in their hiring decision.

“The survey confirms our belief that the boundaries between for-profit and not-for-profit continues to blur and opportunities to move between sectors will continue to increase,” Jane Howze, manager director of The Alexander Group, says in a statement.

Nonprofit hiring executives also placed heavy emphasis on candidates’ experience in working with boards of directors, and on compensation, experience as a nonprofit’s public face, and managerial experience, the study says.

It also says 56.7 percent of nonprofits surveyed hired a chief development officer during the last five years, and 45 percent hired a chief financial officer or chief marketing officer, or both.

“While fundraising has always been critical to the survival of not-for-profits,” Howze says, “the challenging economy created an even more competitive fundraising environment, further highlighting the need for organizations to recruit strong development professionals.”

 

Nonprofits disclose social-security numbers

Thousands of nonprofits are putting the identity of scholarship recipients, board members, employees and even donors at risk by including their social-security numbers in the annual Form 990 tax return they file with the Internal Revenue Service, a new study says.

The study, by Identity Finder, a data-loss-prevention company, searched 2.89 million Form 990s filed with the IRS for the years 2001 through 2006 belonging to 728,847 organizations.

For that six-year period, the study found that 132,362 nonprofits published a total of 472,866 social-security numbers on their tax returns, which are public documents.

Of those social-security numbers, 171,005 were unique, with the larger number reflecting the fact that some numbers were posted on multiple returns.

At least 59,890 of the unique social-security numbers, representing 35 percent of all individuals affected, belonged to tax preparers.

The percentage of nonprofits that published at least one social-security number on their Form 990 fell to 6.8 percent in 2006 from 16.6 percent in 2001.

Most nonprofits that published social-security numbers include only one or two, and less than 1 percent published lists that contained three or more.

Some nonprofits reported no identifying information at all, some published the names of scholarship recipients, and some published names, full addresses, social-security numbers, and detailed transaction information.

“The practice of including social-security numbers in public tax documents is decreasing, but advocacy organizations, alumni associations, community and scholarship foundations, and private trusts have all published lists of names and social-security numbers, unknowingly placing personal information permanently in the public domain,” the study says.

“Scholarship recipients, tax professionals, employees and donors,” it says, “now face the prospect of living the rest of their lives at increased risk of identify fraud.”
The study makes a series of recommendations to protect against disclosure of personal information.

Donors should not share their social-security number with charities, for example, and scholarship applicants should review the most recent Form 990 of any foundation before submitting an application to make sure their personal information will not be published.

Charities should avoid placing personal information on public documents, and those that have published social-security numbers should warn those affected that they may be at increased risk of identify fraud, the study says.

Everyone should require any organization to justify a request for his or her social-security number and should not be afraid to refuse to provide it, the study says.

And the IRS should and other stewards of past 990 filings should provide only redacted copies of the forms, or forms with sensitive information removed, it says.

Affordable-housing group seeks partners

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — At the nine communities for seniors that DHIC has developed in Wake County, Resources for Seniors coordinates a range of services.

Those include health and education programs, assistance with transportation, screening for high blood pressure and diabetes, flu-shot clinics, and tips on nutrition and healthy cooking.

While it dates to 1994, the partnership with Resources for Seniors reflects a strategy DHIC will be pursuing more aggressively as it looks for ways to better serve people who live in affordable housing.

“Our goal is to explore new partnerships that allow us to make full and better use of local services that are already being provided by other agencies, and then to match those services with the needs of our residents” says Yvette Holmes, who joined the nonprofit agency in January as its first director of community partnerships and development after serving for 18 years as campaign director at the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

Formed in 1974 as the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation, DHIC has developed and owns 1,600 housing units at 32 sites, most of them in Wake County.

The agency operates with a $1.5 million annual budget and a staff of 13 employees, and serves roughly 3,000 individuals and families a year, most of them renting housing, with about 300 families that participated in home-buyer workshops.

Revenue includes over $100,000 in core operating support from the City of Raleigh; $130,000 to $140,000 a year in core operating support from NeighborWorks America, a group chartered by Congress to spur affordable housing and community development; $100,000 from foundations and banks; and $250,000 in apartment rent income.

The balance consists of fee income paid to DHIC by its equity investors when it completes development of projects.

DHIC sells tax credits to its investment partners, reducing their tax liability in return for equity that reduces the mortgage loans the agency must borrow and thus the rents its tenants pay.

According to county planners, Wake needs 25,000 units of affordable housing, defined as housing that does not consume more than 30 percent of household income for a family of four, says Gregg Warren, president and executive director of DHIC.

A key challenge in developing affordable housing, he says, is finding available land, a challenge DHIC is addressing through partnerships with developers like Craig Davis Properties, which was involved in the sale of commercial real estate for Wakefield Plantation.

Through that partnership, DHIC developed two separate developments at Wakefield, including 80 apartments for families and 96 apartments for seniors.

And with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, or those born from 1946 through 1964, demand for affordable seniors housing is surging, Warren says.

In addition to seniors and low-wage workers, the population DHIC serves includes single men and women in recovery from addiction, as well as single parents and people who work downtown in local businesses, such as restaurants, nonprofits and arts groups.

“There’s a real need for a range of housing opportunities in downtown Raleigh,” Warren says.

In her new job, Holmes aims to identify funding sources to support direct services to residents of DHIC properties, and to develop partnerships with other agencies to help provide those services.

DHIC also continues to look for real-estate opportunities.

“That means land that is affordable, close to schools, transit, community services, grocery stores,” Warren says.

DHIC developments are “well-designed, well-constructed, well-managed, and can be an asset to any neighborhood in Wake County and the Triangle,” he says.

And they boost the economy: In 2009, 2010 and 2011, DHIC construction projects created about 220 jobs, plus another 54 ongoing jobs, he says.

And in 2011, DHIC paid $344,000 in Wake County taxes.

“We’re creating jobs,” Warren says.

Online fundraising grows

Nonprofits continue to see growth in online fundraising, mirroring the growth rate for retail e-commerce, a new study says.

Online revenue for nonprofits in 2011 grew at a median rate of 15.8 percent, with 73.4 percent of all organizations raising more money than they did in 2010, says The Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study.

Median online revenue growth was down from 20 percent in 2010, when online giving surged in response to the Haiti earthquake and when special-event fundraising was higher.

The study, based on data from over 700 nonprofits in the U.S. and Canada that have at least 24 months of online usage data and raised a total of over $1.22 billion online in 2011, also says online fundraiser grew faster for smaller organizations than for larger groups.

Online giving grew at a median rate of 26.7 percent for nonprofits with files containing 10,000 or fewer email addresses, double the rate for nonprofits with over 250,000 email files.

First-time online gifts represented 37 percent of total median online revenue.

Median growth in online revenue from sustainer programs, which represented 6.9 percent of total online giving, totaled 38.7 percent, with significant recurring giving programs found in associations and membership groups, Canadian organizations, food banks and public-broadcasting stations.

The median donation size grew to $92.67, up 2 percent from 2010.

Online legislative advocacy grew a median of 17 percent, with advocates representing 12 percent of total email files.

And the median number of online donors also advocating grew 14.6 percent, while advocates that donate online grew 24.6 percent, a nearly four-fold increase from 2010.

Canadian nonprofits experienced a 77 percent increase in online advocates and a 7.4 percent median increase in the average monthly gift.

Based on data from eMarketer, the study says, growth rates for online fundraising roughly tracked growth rates for retail e-commerce – 27 percent, 16 percent, 14 percent , 14 percent, 20 percent and 16 percent for online fundraising from 2006 through 2011, respectively, compared to 23.5 percent, 20.8 percent, 18.6 percent, 17.2 percent, 16 percent and 15 percent for retail e-commerce.

Children’s museum counts on collaboration

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every Wednesday at about 5 p.m., roughly 25 to 30 students from fourth through eighth grade arrive at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, where for 90 minutes to two hours they learn about nutrition and cooking, and play in the interactive exhibits at the museum.

The program, which began as a tutorial effort launched in the Glenwood neighborhood by Grace Community Church, is sponsored by Dow Corning, which makes Silly Putty at a local plant.

The sponsorship reflects a larger strategy by the museum to expand its programs and reach through collaboration with local companies and organizations.

“We want to continue to develop new community partnerships,” says Marian King, who became CEO of the museum in February after serving as interim CEO starting last July.

Launched in 1999, the museum operates with an annual budget of $1.4 million and full-time staff of 23 plus about 15 high-school and college students who work part-time as “program and learning specialists,” or PALS.

Annual attendance totaled about 127,000 people in the fiscal year ended last June 30, including nearly 16,000 students who attended with school groups, as well as visitors from 24 different states.

“We want to be accessible to everyone,” says King, a Greensboro native and veteran nonprofit executive who worked for the Girls Scouts’ 13-county Tar Heel Triad Council in a broad range of posts for 26 years, including the last 12 as chief operating officer.

Popular features at the 37,000-square-foot museum, which is located in a former car dealership, include an “Our Town” exhibit, as well as a half-acre “Edible School Yard.”

For Our Town, children can play at working in a variety of roles in hands-on exhibits depicting such “Main Street” locales as a grocery store, theater, health center, book store, construction zone, media center and post office.

The museum also includes a big transportation area featuring a race car donated by NASCAR’s Petty family, as well as a fire truck, police car and airplane cockpit.

The Edible School Yard, one of only five in the U.S. and the only one housed at a children’s museum, is part of a national project based in Berkeley, Calif., and coordinated by the Chez Panisse Foundation created by Alice Waters, a chef and restaurateur.

Offering programs after school, evenings and weekends, the Edible School Yard includes a garden and kitchen and lets kids and their families grow and harvest vegetables, learn to cook, and visit a nearby farmers market and buy fresh foods.

The museum generates about 60 percent of its revenue through earned income, including memberships, and counts on contributions, mainly from institutions, for the remainder.

Annual giving, for example, totaled $56,000 in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011.

And the museum’s “Green Acres Gala,” scheduled for May 18 in its outdoor garden, aims to raise $50,000, up from $35,000 last year.

King says the museum is counting on partnerships like the one with Dow Corning to help it continue to grow.

Thanks to a new sponsorship from Greensboro-based Volvo Trucks North America, for example, the museum in May will open a new exhibit featuring a 13½-foot-high sleeper cab that kids can climb on and see.

King also hopes to build on a fundraising event the museum co-hosted Feb. 4 with the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art and the Greensboro Public Library Foundation.

The event, which attracted 450 people and raised $60,000 that was divvied up among the three organizations, featured cocktails and appetizers at Green Hill, followed by dinner at the downtown branch of the library a two-minute walk away, followed by dessert and dancing to a live band at the museum across the street.

The Children’s Museum, which has an endowment totaling roughly $300,000 and is in the final year of collecting pledges for a capital campaign that raised $1.2 million for the Edible School Yard, aims to grow by offering new and different programs, and finding new partners, King says.

On April 27, for example, the museum will host a reception celebrating the opening of a new exhibit, “Larger than Life,” that aims to give children a bug’s eye view of the world from tactile, visual and auditory perspectives.

The exhibit has been developed by a group of undergraduate and graduate students in a class taught by Jonathan Anderson, an assistant professor in the department of interior architecture at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

A grant from UNCG paid for about half the $5,000 project, the students have raised funds for it, and Unifi has agreed to make up the difference.

“We want to develop new community partnerships,” King says.