C Foundation works to assist breast-cancer survivors

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In October 2012, during a 10-month period when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Christie Lee of Greensboro attended Pink in the Park, an event to raise awareness of breast cancer that was sponsored by The Breast Center of Greensboro Imaging.

At the event, visiting a vendor table for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit that works to fight breast cancer, she was invited to apply to be Komen’s Face of Breast Cancer for Guilford County.

She was selected for 2013, and in that role began to receive product donations from companies. So in May 2013, she formed the C Foundation, which provides donated products, financial assistance, discussion groups and information for breast-cancer survivors.

In the past two years, the Foundation has received donations worth $15,000 to $20,000 from over 30 vendors and served at least 3,000 patients, says Lee, who is senior technical team lead at AT&T and works on a volunteer basis as founder and director of operations for the Foundation.

“We are trying to eradicate the financial responsibility” to pay for medical costs, daily living and needs such as prostheses, she says.

The C Foundation has landed two official product sponsors, including K-Y and Priscilla McCall’s, and provides patients with donated products ranging from those related to female libido to makeup, footwear, exercise apparel and books.

The Foundation, which counts on 10 volunteers plus Lee, also sponsors Let’s Talk, a bimonthly forum that meets at Greensboro restaurants, beauty spas, community centers and hotels, and typically attracts 20 to 30 people.

“We discuss common side effects that are being experienced by most of the survivors,” Lee says. “We then give them products to help assist.”

The next forum, which will focus on skin and hair care, is scheduled for June 20 at the Double Tree on High Point Road.

C Foundation is expanding beyond North Carolina, and has begun introducing itself in Virginia and in New Orleans, says Lee, who devotes about 15 hours a week, during the evening, to the charity.

It will hold a fundraising events in October at a restaurant in Alexandria, Va., and in November at the same jewelry store in Woodbridge, Va., where it held an event last year that raised $1,000.

And in April, Lee and two other volunteers visited New Orleans to talk to breast-cancer centers and to vendors.

She also hopes to begin working with hospitals that have treatment centers for breast cancer, along with support groups for patients and survivors.

Lee, whose treatment included chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiation, and ended in December 2012, says she now is considered cancer-free.

“The experiences from one survivor to another are unique,” Lee says. “We aim to ensure that we broadly help all those involved.”

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Guide aims to help funders be more ‘transparent’

A new guide aims to help foundations be more open about their work in response to growing demand for “transparency” by sharing “in a frank, easily accessible and timely way” what they do, how they do it, and the difference they make.

Transparency includes making available information such as past grants awarded, the process for selecting grantees, performance assessments and strategy documents, says “Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency,” a guide from GrantCraft in collaboration with Glasspockets.

GrantCraft, a joint project of the Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre, says 75 percent of survey respondents reported seeing increased demand for funder transparency over the past five years.

Transparency “is not a one-size-fits-all process for every foundation,” the guide says, and reflects a “mindset,” with funders believing “they are most effective when they approach all aspects of their work by saying, ‘let’s publicly share this,'” the guide says.

Transparency “can help foundations build and strengthen relationships that can ultimately help them make a bigger and stronger impact,” it says.

Benefits of transparency, it says, include “less time spent explaining goals and strategies to potential grantees; better, more on-target grant proposals; more effective and informed grantmaking based on feedback from grantees and other stakeholders; stronger and more open relationships with grantees and other nonprofit organizations; closer relationships with other foundations, leading to more collaborative grantmaking; and increased public trust.”

Becoming more transparent also involves challenges, the guide says, including limited staff time and “getting over the fear of admitting failure; feeling vulnerable; finding authentic ways to engage in real dialogue with grantees and others; and setting up sustainable systems for sharing information publicly.”

The guide, featuring case studies, includes sections and suggestions for sharing grantee selection process and grantee data; sharing performance assessments; strengthening engagement with grantees and other stakeholders; improving the practice of philanthropy; and connecting using every opportunity.

Todd Cohen

Tech tools seen boosting funder collaboration

Funders that want to work together but find it tough to do can turn to technology to make it easier to collaborate, a new report says.

New tech tools “can make collaborations easier by reducing inefficiencies and enabling new methods of working together,” says Harnessing Collaborative Technologies, a report from the Monitor Institute and the Foundation Center.

Foundations increasingly are collaborating to make a greater impact in addressing big, complex problems, the report says, yet many of those funders are struggling to work together.

Challenges they face, including time to manage the collaboration and develop “protocols” to share information and act jointly, can stymie the partnerships, it says.

But new technologies can make it easier for funders to find and connect with other funders, work and make decisions together, and measure, track and share their progress and results, the report says.

“Data visualization” tools, for example, let foundations find patterns of giving and funding relationships, and better understand complex social and economic trends, the report says, while social networking sites can be a resource for funder collaboratives, and other online tools can help foundations find, share and discuss news and information.

Funders also can use new tech tools to better coordinate their work, streamline group processes and use online workspaces that integrate tools for collaboration such as  document sharing, calendar sharing, blogging and group discussion boards.

And funders can use the emerging concept of “open data” to aggregate information and share it broadly through social media tools such as blogging.

While they are independent by nature and “never have to collaborate,” the report says, “working together can help funders aggregate resources to match the scale of the problems they are seeking to address.”

New technologies can “significantly decrease the barriers to collaboration” if funders choose tools that are easy to use, can be integrated into existing systems and customized for specific needs, and allow information to be shared.

Todd Cohen

Foundation giving posts modest growth

Giving by U.S. foundations grew to $50.9 million in 2012 from $49 million a year earlier and is expected to grow modestly in 2013, a new report says.

Giving by community foundations grew 9 percent in 2012 to $4.7 billion, compared to growth of 4 percent in giving by independent and by operating foundations, which gave $35.2 billion and $5.9 billion, respectively, says Key Facts on U.S. Foundations, a report from the Foundation Center.

Giving by corporate foundations fell 1 percent to $5.1 billion.

Foundation giving, which in 2011 represented 16 percent of the total $303.1 billion in private giving in the U.S., has grown over 60 percent since 2001, the report says.

“It may not be the boom years of the late 1990s or mid-2000s, but the good news is that it looks like U.S. foundations will continue to provide a stable  sources of support for new ideas and ongoing programs that improve lives around the world,” Steven Lawrence, director of research at the Foundation Center and author of the report.

The report also says that:

* In 2011, the 81,777 foundations in the U.S. held $622 billion in assets, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alone holding $34.6 billion

* Among the 1,122 biggest foundations, which hold 56 percent of all foundation assets, and award 56 percent of all foundation grants, support for health and education accounted for nearly half of all grant dollars, with the Gates Foundation alone giving $3.2 billion. The biggest foundations include the top 15 in each state.

* The Gates Foundation’s investment of $967 million over five years in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization represented the single biggest grant made by any U.S. foundation.

* Among all grant dollars awarded by the biggest foundations, 35 percent were specifically intended to benefit economically disadvantaged people.

* The top 1 percent of recipients of grants from the biggest foundations received half of those foundations’ grant dollars, with their median grant totaling $28,462.

* Operating and corporate foundations established by pharmaceutical companies give over $5 billion a year, nearly all of its in the form of donated medicines.

Todd Cohen

Foundation giving slips

Estimated giving by the more than 76,600 foundations in the U.S. totaled $46.9 billion in 2011, up from a peak of $46.8 billion before the economy plunged in 2008 but down slightly from 2010 after accounting for inflation new survey says.

Excluding giving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, by far the biggest grantmaker in the U.S., 2011 giving would have been flat before accounting for inflation and down by roughly 3 percent after inflation.

Giving in 2012 likely will grow between 1 percent and 3 percent, although with inflation averaging just under 3 percent, giving likely will stay flat at best, based on real purchasing, says Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates, from the Foundation Center.

The survey, based on responses from 1,077 large and mid-size foundations, also suggests foundation giving in 2013 likely will show consistent yet modest growth.

“Foundations would like to ramp up giving, but that is unlikely to happen absent consistent economic growth,” Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center, says in a statement.

Charitable contributions by independent and family foundations, which represent the vast majority of U.S. foundations, grew less than 2 percent to $33.1 billion before inflation, the survey says.

Giving by corporate foundations grew 6 percent to $5.2 billion before inflation, the biggest increase among all foundations, while giving by community foundations fell slightly to $4.2 billion before inflation.

Over a third of foundations responding to the survey indicated their giving fell last year.

While foundation regained over 9 percent of their asset value in 2010, big swings in the capital markets in 2011 left them with estimated assets totaling $646.1 billion, up 0.3 percent and well below the record-high of $682.2 billion in 2007.

Some foundations continued to “recalibrate” their giving after increasing their “payout rate” during the economic crisis, or the amount they distribute for charitable purpose as a share of their assets.

That increase in the payout rate helped foundations maintain their level of giving, or limit reductions in their giving, despite big declines in their assets, the survey says.

While assets of those foundations have regained some of their 2008 losses, it says, “returning to more typical payout levels [5 percent for private foundations] means that overall grant dollars awarded by these foundations may remain fairly flat.”

As a result of poor performance of the capital markets in 2011, and the “unsteady nature of the economic recovery,” the survey says, foundation giving is “unlikely to gain much momentum this year.”

Still, 44 percent of respondents expect to increase their giving in 2012, while 18 percent expect to increase their giving.

Foundations that give $10 million or more, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total foundation giving, are most likely with anticipate increased giving, with 54 percent expecting to give more this year, including 53 percent of corporate foundations, 45 percent of community foundations, and 42 percent of independent foundations.

Nearly two in five foundations expect to reduce their giving in 2012, compared to between roughly a quarter to a roughly a third of funders that might expect to reduce their giving in more prosperous times, the survey says.

In 2013, 54 percent of foundations expect to keep their giving steady, 19 percent expect to give more and 9 percent expect to give less, with another 14 percent not clear what they will do.

“The uncertain nature of the current economic and political environment both in the United States and globally suggests a cautious approach to forecasting foundation growth over the next couple of years,” the survey says.

But if the economy performs more consistently this year, it says, foundations “may be in a position to raise their 2012 and 2013 giving beyond what they expected at the start of the year.”