Job market tied to social capital

The job market benefits from strong civic health, a new study says.

Communities with more nonprofits per capita and with strong civic connections or “social capital” have fared better in the recession and seen smaller increases in unemployment than communities with less dense concentrations of nonprofits and weaker civic ties, says Civic Health and Unemployment II, a report from the National Conference on Citizenship in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The 10 states with the most nonprofits per capita and the strongest social capital, for example, had jobless rates of 6.5 percent in 2010, compared to 10.8 percent in the states with lowest density of nonprofits and weakest social capita, says the report.

Based on research led by The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, Civic Enterprises, and The Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University, the report builds on a 2011 report from the National Conference on Citizenship that found states and major metro areas with higher levels of civic engagement in 2006 experienced smaller increases in unemployment from 2006 to 2010.

“A secret weapon in America’s economic recovery can be found in the connections between and among citizens, and a strong nonprofit sector,” David B. Smith, executive director of the National Conference on Citizenship, says in a statement.

“In cities and towns across the country, strong civic health is the bricks and mortar of a strong civic foundation,” he says.

Counties ranking in the top 10 percent of  nonprofit density in 2006 posted an increase of 2 percentage points in their unemployment rates between 2006 and 2009, compared to an increase of 5.1 percentage points for counties in the bottom 10 percent of nonprofit density during the same period.

A county with one additional nonprofit per 1,000 people in 2005 would have unemployment of half a percentage point less by 2009.

And an unemployed individual in 2008 was twice as likely to become unemployed if he or she lived in a community with few nonprofits rather than one with many nonprofits, even if the two communities otherwise were similar.

At the state level, the report says, stronger social cohesion within a community strongly predicted a smaller increase in the employment rate from 2006 to 2010.

In 2006, for example, states with high social cohesion and those with low social cohesion had unemployment rates of roughly 4.5 percent.

By 2010, however, states with strong social connections had an unemployment rate of 8 percent, compared with 10 percent for states with low social connections.

Three states — South Dakota, Maine and Nebraska — ranked in the top 10 when measured for nonprofit density, social cohesion, and a combination of the two.

Todd Cohen

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Greensboro United Way aims to be change agent

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Ninety-two percent of boys in grades three through five at Wiley Elementary School in Greensboro who received mentoring last school year through a pilot program launched in December by United Way of Greater Greensboro in partnership with Communities in Schools of Greater Greensboro passed their end-of-grade math test at the end of the school year.

That compares with 38 percent of all students in the school who took the test two years ago and passed that test.

The mentoring partnership is part of a larger effort by United Way to make an impact on some of the region’s most urgent health and human services needs.

As it kicks off its annual fundraising drive, United Way is focusing on partnership initiatives to help increase academic performance and grade advancement for children, improve health literacy, and boost the financial stability for individuals and families.

The emerging strategy aims to “develop a collaborative vision for the long-term economic success of our residents,” says Keith Barsuhn, president and CEO at United Way. “Our primary focus is collaborative efforts for community change.”

Chaired by Harold Martin, chancellor at N.C. A&T State University, the campaign aims to raise $11 million, up 3.5 percent from nearly $10.7 million it raised last year.

Raising money, Barsuhn says, is a strategy to support the larger effort to improve lives for vulnerable people.

Collaborative initiatives in that effort, known as the Blueprint for Lasting Change, will have specific community goals, with performance tied to specific metrics, such as the percentage of students passing the end-of-grade test.

All those initiatives will be rooted in building the capacity of partner agencies that provide volunteers to work with clients.

United Way, for example, aims to invest $1.3 million for a community-wide mentoring program, known as Mentoring Matters, that is based on the pilot last year at Wiley Elementary, which also included boys in second grade.

A second initiative will focus on Thriving at Three, a program launched in 2006 that works to ensure that children from birth to age 3 receive the care, parenting and support they need.

That community-based program works with families in the Claremont Courts neighborhood, and in the Latino community, in partnership with the Greensboro Housing Authority and Greensboro Public Library, including an early-literacy project launched in July, known as Raising a Reader.

For the pilot project at Wiley Elementary, which also included boys in grade 2, Communities in Schools matched nearly 50 mentors with young boys.

United Way is developing a new health literacy initiative in partnership with the Cone Health Foundation.

And it is developing the new economic success effort in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to help families develop more financial stability.

That effort will be part of Greensboro Works, a larger partnership the two agencies are leading to connect people who need better jobs skills with opportunities for training and jobs.

“The  resources you need for this work, whether they be dollars, volunteers or advocacy work, are the strategies to achieve those community-change goals,” Barsuhn says.

“We want to have a fierce focus on setting community-level change goals,” he says. “That’s the measure that we think is important if we’re having an impact in this community. It’s not just about achieving fundraising goals.”

Health charities compete for donations

By Todd Cohen

As vice president for policy, planning and communications at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research , Joyce A. Oberdorf saw an opportunity to fill a gap in helping families of patients cope with the disease.

The Fox Foundation, she said, had developed an effective business model for raising money to support research to find a cure for the disease and ensure improved therapies for patients.

But the Parkinson’s community “was not all that good at systematically addressing” the impact on families from the inevitable deterioration faced by patients, who tend to live a long time with the disease, Oberdorf said.

So in March 2008, she joined the National Parkinson Foundation as president and CEO, aiming to “develop the care-and-support side for Parkinson’s in the same way that the Fox Foundation had developed the research side.”

Welcome to the competitive marketplace for healthcare charities that focus on diseases. “We’re all competing,” said George Omiros, executive vice president of campaign and field development for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Market share

The chase for charitable donations pits all charities against one another. “We compete with all charities for the charitable dollar, especially since the downturn in the economy,” Omiros explained. “Since 2008, there’s been virtually no growth in the philanthropic sector. There’s been decline.”

With all charities competing for funds, and with even closer combat among health charities that focus on the same disease, the struggle is to “steal market share from other organizations in order to continue to grow,” Omiros said.

Among cancer charities, he said, three organizations dominate the fundraising field. Those include the American Cancer Society, which raises nearly $1 billion a year, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which raises roughly $400 million annually, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which raises $320 million.

Komen and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society both have “taken away market share,” from the American Cancer Society, he said. Some 20 years ago, the Cancer Society was raising about $300 million a year, he said, while the LLS was raising approximately $35 million, or about 11.6 percent of what the larger organization was raising, a share that has nearly tripled to 32 percent.

Officials of the national headquarters at the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure declined to be interviewed for this article. A Komen spokesman said in an email message that “the competition aspect of fundraising isn’t something they want to talk about right now.”

Underscoring the stakes involved in disease fundraising was the announcement by Komen in August that its founder was stepping down as CEO and its president had resigned. The shakeup came in the wake of a highly publicized controversy Komen had triggered when it announced it planned to end most financing for breast cancer education and screening by Planned Parenthood of America. Planned Parenthood provides family planning among its services, and some Komen executives opposed those services.

Although Komen quickly reversed its initial decision, the controversy has hurt fundraising this year at many local Komen affiliates.

Competitive strategies

In a fiercely competitive charitable marketplace, effective fundraising requires a range of strategies that include engaging and retaining volunteers and donors, building a brand, marketing, social media and, not least, differentiating the organization’s programs from those of other groups, said nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals.

What is key, they explained, is that nonprofits must focus on their own strategies, not those of the competition.

“I don’t every recall being in a room when we were planning an event or major gift campaign where our competition entered our thinking, other than wanting to avoid what they were doing on a particular day,” said Pam Kohl, CEO of Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast, the Raleigh-based Komen affiliate that serves 29 counties in Eastern North Carolina.

“We focus on our mission, our niche,” explained Kohl, a former CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Capital and Coast and former executive director of the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education, both based in Raleigh.

The local Komen affiliate looks at the national Komen website every week to learn from the strategies of other affiliates, she said. It also works in collaboration with groups like the American Cancer Society to push state lawmakers for more funding for breast and cervical cancer programs.

“In my 25 years, it was never about, ‘We’ve got to do it better than they do,’” she said. “Most of the time, it was about, ‘We’ve got to do it the Poe Center way or the Komen way. We’ve got a brand. We’ve got to maintain our brand and do our events better than we did it last year.’”

AIDS Lifecycle is an annual 545-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raises money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

Since it was launched in 2001 as a spinoff of the California AIDS Ride, the event has raised nearly $100 million, including nearly $13 million in June.

Rather than worrying about one-upping competitors to stand out amid the clutter of fundraising events, AIDS Lifecycle focuses on giving participants the best experience they can have in raising money and staying healthy, said Greg Sroda, director of the event.

“I think it’s a competitive environment but I feel our ride and our community have something unique,” he explained.

AIDS Lifecycle works to differentiate its ride from other fundraising events, both those that support AIDS services, as well as those that support charities in other fields, by providing participants with rigorous, year-long training programs that focus on fitness, safety and fundraising.

Those include a suite of tools that range from fundraising pages, marketing workshops and coaching to fitness training.

“It is competitive about how we are going to get the dollars we need,” Sroda explained. “We put the power in participants’ hands.”

Standing apart

The National Parkinson Foundation tries to differentiate itself not only by its focus on helping people cope with the disease on a daily basis, but also by its effort to keep most of the money in the communities where it was raised.

“We carved out a mission that is a complementary, non-competitive mission with what the Fox Foundation does,” Oberdorf explained. “We always keep in the forefront of our minds that the true competitor is the disease,” Oberdorf said. “The true thing we’re fighting is the disease.”

Created in 1955, the foundation has raised roughly $120 million since 2000, or about $11 million to $12 million a year, plus $4 million a year through its 39 chapters throughout the U.S. The foundation has launched Moving Day, which executives hope to build into a national signature event. Piloted in 2011 in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Pa., and a small town in Georgia, the event will be held in 16 communities this year and in 20 next year.

Money raised at each event is used to provide services in the local community, and the event is designed to “provide a much-needed boost to attract people to be volunteers,” Oberdorf said.

The foundation in recent years also has invested in technology “to determine what care and treatments produce the best outcomes over time,” she said. Last year, it launched a new digital application that physicians can use on smart phones or other mobile devices to identify tests they can use or to find out how to conduct an examination if they suspect a patient may have Parkinson’s. And next year it will launch a digital …app that patients can use to find out the kinds of questions they should ask their physicians if they suspect they may have the disease.

“Distinguishing ourselves is absolutely crucial in everything we do, as is making connections with families is absolutely crucial,” said Oberdorf.

The Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research, which has invested more than $300 million to fund research and last year raised $68 million, focuses entirely on finding better treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

“We are the only Parkinson foundation solely focused on funding Parkinson’s research — with the single-minded goal of developing improved treatments and a cure,” said Sheila Kelly, vice president for development for the foundation, which is based in New York City. “That has helped us continue to go back to our donor base and constituents, and report on progress.”

Engaging donors and volunteers has been a key strategy at the foundation, she said. Team Fox, the grassroots fundraising arm the foundation launched in 2006 to provide people in local communities with fundraising tools and support, has raised $16 million, including $6 million last year.

Also key are major gifts, which account for over half the foundation’s annual revenue. The family of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, for example, offered to match up to $50 million in new contributions. The foundation has matched more than $33 million so far, including $4.7 million Nike donated after raising those dollars by selling in a charity auction on eBay 1,500 pairs of Nike MAGs, the sneaker Fox wore in the movie Back to the Future Part II.

Kelly said transparency also is critical to the foundation, which has no endowment. “Whatever we bring in we put out to research,” she explained. “So we go back to people each year, so it helps to be transparent and accountable to constituents.”

Engaging volunteers

At the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, getting more volunteers involved in the organization is a key fundraising strategy, Omiros said. The organization has focused on recruiting volunteers to raise money, serve as local leaders, connect the organization to resources, and be involved in programs that serve patients.

Volunteer engagement during the past four years has grown 50 percent at the local level, and volunteer leadership in the organization’s signature “Light the Night” walk program has grown 75 percent. With more than 300 sites, Light the Night last year generated $56 million.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has recruited 500,000 volunteers just to write letters to their neighbors asking for contributions and to get involved with the organization.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which has invested more than $850 million in research since it was formed in 1949, including more than $75 million last year, operates with 61 chapters in the U.S. and Canada and generates more than $300 million a year in revenue, roughly 90 percent of it from events.

It also is important for the organization to differentiate itself from other charities, particularly cancer charities, Omiros said. “We position ourselves that we are one of the top leading supporters of research in the U.S. and, besides the federal government, worldwide, in blood cancer research,” he said.

New research in recent years has targeted strategies for helping patients, such as a “therapy-acceleration” program that funds new initiatives to bring research to patients quickly. And on Jan. 23, 2013, in San Antonio, the organization will launch Herothon, a world-class endurance program featuring a half-marathon that aims to capitalize on Team in Training, an endurance training program that surpassed $1 billion since the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society launched it 24 years ago.

“I’m a firm believer that people give money to people, not necessarily to causes,” Omiros said. “So the more volunteers you have engaged, or the more people out there asking people to give money and be involved and provide patient service programs, the better we can be as an organization.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 10.19.12

Cone Health Foundation awards $4.5 million

The Cone Health Foundation awarded $4.5 million in grants to 35 Greensboro-area nonprofits.

The awards, based on 52 applications requesting $5.4 million, support agencies working in the Foundation’s four grantmaking focus areas, including access to health care; adolescent pregnancy prevention; HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections; and mental health and substance abuse.

Some of the grants fall outside of  those defined categories and support community collaborations.

The single largest grant, $805,678, will go to HealthServe, a service of Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine that is designed to strengthen the health care safety net for people in Guilford County and provide medical services to low-income individuals.

Wake Tech Foundation gets $35,000 from SunTrust Foundation

The SunTrust Foundation has given $35,000 to the Wake Tech Foundation to fund the newly-created SunTrust Foundation Financial Literacy Initiative, which will focus on equipping Wake Tech students and employees with financial literacy skills.

Arts & Science Council gets boost from Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo will match all donations made to Arts & Science Council by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ employees, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 through CMS’ 2012 Community One Campaign. All donations will go to support ASC’s Cultural Education Fund and will directly affect CMS through field trips, classroom experiences and professional development and training for teachers.

High Point concert to benefit United Way, theater

United Way of Greater High Point and Friends of the High Point Theatre will benefit from Rock n High Point, a concert on October 26 in Mendenhall Transportation Terminal on Commerce Street featuring The Carter Brothers and Lacy Green.

John Avery Boys & Girls Club

Walmart donated $10,000 to the John Avery Boys and Girls Club in Durham to help it recover from a fire on Sept. 9 at its at administrative building.

The organization also will host its Olympic Bull City Gala on Nov. 18 at Bay 7 of the American Tobacco Campus honoring the late Leroy Walker, the first African-American president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

United Way of the Greater Triangle

E. Wayne Holden, president and CEO at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, has been appointed to the board of directors of United Way of the Greater Triangle in Morrisville.

Hospice of Wake County

Hospice of Wake  County will hold its 3-mile Step Lively walk on Nov. 17 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Hospice has raised over $114,000 from the event in the lsat two years.

Autism Society of North Carolina

Autism Society of North Carolina raised a record-high $300,000 at the 14th annual Triangle Run/Walk for Autism on Oct. 13. Premiere Communications and Consulting was the leading contributor, donating over $20,000. The company also supplied the generator for the event, and provided volunteers at the Autism Society’s Camp Royall facility to rewire the offices for data and phone outlets.

Festival Stage of Winston-Salem

Bermuda Village Retirement Community will sponsor the Friends Lounge at all performances of productions in October, February and May for of Festival Stage of Winston-Salem.

North Carolina Humanities Council

Cynthia “Cindy” Brodhead, who is married to Duke University President Richard Brodhead, has been elected chair of the The North Carolina Humanities Council. Richard Schramm, vice president for education programs at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, has been elected vice-chair, and Mark Costley, a senior member at Walker Lambe Rhudy Costley & Gill, has been elected to serve as a trustee.

Duke Athletics

Rebecca and Steven Scott, retired chairman of medical investment company Scott Holdings, committed $10 million to the Duke Athletics Department, the university’s largest such gift ever.

Long-term strategy seen as key to effective advocacy

To be effective, nonprofit advocates need to gear themselves for a long haul, be methodical, understand what drives public officials, build coalitions for the short term, and show strong leadership, a new study says.

Effective advocacy has become increasingly urgent in the face of a federal government committed to reducing the budget deficit by cutting spending, a weak economic recovery that “continues to leave millions of people without sufficient support,” a “deeply divided partisan Washington, D.C.,” and the landmark Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 that “lowered the barriers to participating in the political area for business and trade unions,” says the study by Independent Sector.

“Nonprofits face great challenges getting their voices heard,” Independent Sector says in a statement.

The study, “Beyond the Cause: The Art and Science of Successful Advocacy,” is based on over 100 interviews, three surveys, three case studies, a review of existing literature on advocacy and lobbying by charities, and research on publicly available information about 528 organizations’ engagement in sector-wide public policy issues.

The study found five strategic approaches were “common ingredients” in successful advocacy both for corporate and nonprofit lobbying groups:

* Sustain a “laser-like” focus on long-term goals.

It is common among the most successful groups engaged in advocacy in Washington, D.C., to set goals over 10, 20 or 25 years, the study says.

“Little can be accomplished in a year” unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a national crisis, or if years of planning have taken place and a chance opportunity is seized, it says.

* Prioritize building the elements for successful campaigns.

Successful advocates “constantly invest in relationships with public officials, deepening their understanding of the issues and of the legislative process,” the study says.

Those “building phases” include conducting research, developing policy solutions, building relationships with potential allies, testing key messages with targeting audiences, building out grassroots and “grass-tops” contacts, and “deeply understanding the priorities of public officials,” the study says.

That work is “time consuming, expensive, ongoing, and must be conducted by an organization with the ability to maintain the knowledge and relationships garnered throughout the process,” it says.

The most successful advocates, it says, were as active during the building phase as they were during the campaign phase.

* Consider the motivation of public officials.

Building relationships with public officials takes time, the study says, but “few investments are more valuable to achieving success in the public policy arena.”

Successful advocates, it says, invest a lot of time “in understanding the policy environment and the players, including a thorough knowledge of public officials’ backgrounds, family histories, connections, and the priorities of their constituents.”

* Galvanize coalitions to achieve short-term results.

Coalitions can help aggregate “diverse voices, skills sets and other assets necessary for advocacy,” the study says.

While successful organizations did not always use coalitions as their only vehicle for advancing their cause, it says, coalitions that were successful “tended to form around a specific issue at a given moment in time and disband once their goal had been achieved or retool for the next issue.”

Key to effective coalitions, it says, are “strong leadership, a shared vision, clear decision-making structures, and members who brought complementary assets to the table and who put some ‘skin in the game.'”

* Ensure strong, high-integrity leadership.

Successful advocacy groups are headed by individuals with “high integrity and transparency,” a reputation for “being an honest broker of information,” relationships that “reflect a level of trust between the leader” and colleagues and target audiences, and the “ability to articulate a compelling vision and mobilize people around it,” the study says.

Still, despite their successes, many organizations engaged in advocacy efforts that were “duplicative, uncoordinated, and did not maximize their combined assets,” the study says.

And in the face of escalating sector-wide challenges, it says, the sector should develop “shared, long-term goals,” increase the “number and depth” of relationships with a broader range of key public officials, improve coordination among organizations, and increase the “visibility and clout of the sector, particularly with government officials.”

The study calls for “strong leadership to organize the sector around a common agenda.”

With Congress set to look more closely at the charitable sector through tax reform in 2013, it says, the nonprofit and philanthropic sector should “align its efforts by creating a joint strategy that will enable organizations to better serve the growing needs of American communities.”

Todd Cohen

High Point United Way targets basic needs

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Tina Harp had lost her job, her home was in foreclosure, and she could not make her mortgage payments, and faced homelessness for herself and her three children at Christmas time.

So she visited the Salvation Army of High Point.

In addition to providing financial assistance for her mortgage payment, the agency asked if she needed holiday gifts for her kids.

Six year later, having found a new job, Harp learned the Salvation Army needed volunteer bell ringers to help solicit donations for the Christmas season.

So she invited her three children to volunteer with her.

“She’s like all of us,” says Bobby Smith, president of United Way of Greater High Point.

“You think you may not need the help,” he says. “Then you’re in a situation where you have to turn for assistance, and you get help, and when you get back on your feet, you’re wanting to help others.”

Harp is one of three people featured in an eight-minute video produced for United Way and its annual fundraising campaign by Digital Production Group in Greensboro.

Chair by Tim Ilderton, owner of Ilderton Chrysler Dodge Jeep, the campaign aims to raise just over $4.6 million, the total United Way raised last year, when it exceeded its goal by $177,000.

United Way’s annual campaign grew 5 percent last year after growing four percent the year before, enabling United Way this year to invest $3 million in its 29 partner agencies and their 70 programs it funds.

United Way also made one-time “venture” grants totaling nearly $50,000 to one of its partner agencies and to eight other agencies that are not United Way partners.

The total raised last year did not include any significant one-time gifts, and United Way anticipates no significant losses this year, Smith says.

That’s good news, he says, because the demand continues to grow for health and human services at United Way’s partner agencies.

That is particularly true for basic emergency needs, such as food, clothing, shelter and assistance with mortgage payments, rent, utility bills and consumer credit counseling, Smith says.

“United Way and its agencies are addressing the most critical needs in our community and doing so in an effective and efficient manner,” he says.