Good morning. This week we look at the odds that Congress will take action soon to help nonprofits with federal aid and the growing urgency for such financial support. A former Rockefeller Foundation CEO issues a call to other philanthropy leaders to take emergency action to ensure all presidential election votes are counted. We showcase an innovative effort led by the Annenberg Foundation to advance diversity in corporate America as American Express announces a $50 million effort to aid groups led by people of color. And as the ballot counting continues, plan to join us Monday for a free discussion with three big thinkers who will share their recommendations on what’s next for philanthropy and democracy.
Stacy Palmer and Dan Parks

The Presidential Election: a Challenge to Philanthropy

Peter Goldmark, a former Rockefeller Foundation CEO with long experience in government, joined John McIntosh, a veteran adviser to nonprofits to issue a call this week: Grant makers should hold emergency board meetings to consider things like funding the legal defense of all properly completed mail ballots and investigate charges of voter suppression.

“At this moment, doing the right thing as we enter a period of uncertainty may entail some financial, personal, or reputational risks for philanthropic leaders and their institutions,” they write. “But things that feel safe and easy are not what we need. Apprehensive trustees should resign rather than try to restrain their bolder colleagues. Foundations without the stomach for the fight should consider distributing their resources to braver organizations rather than leave vital resources on the sidelines when they are needed most and when the struggles and actions of the next few weeks will have an enormous impact on whether we will have a functioning democracy going forward.”

Plus: As signs of a Biden win seem stronger, read a veteran philanthropy lawyer’s views on the problems his tax plan will pose to charitable giving.

Odds of Congressional Aid to Nonprofits Grows

Store Closed Due to Coronavirus

With Election Day behind us, Congress may be in a better position now to enact another round of stimulus spending — something nonprofits say they desperately need.

“All sides agree: The need for relief and stimulus are greater than ever,” said David Thompson, vice president for public policy at the National Council of Nonprofits. “Now the parties can agree without worrying about giving the other side a win.”

Reports on nonprofits’ fiscal health from around the nation are grim. For example, 10 percent of Arizona nonprofits say they are likely to close soon, and 29 percent of South Carolina nonprofits say they can operate for only three more months without additional funds. Four percent of Kentucky nonprofits have shut down, and another 5 percent expect to close by the end of the year.

The bad financial situation means widespread job cuts: The nonprofit work force had roughly 8 percent fewer jobs in September than it did before the pandemic. Nonprofits in the arts had the steepest loss, falling 35 percent, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society.

What would help: Nonprofits and their advocates are looking for a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided forgivable loans to nonprofits and businesses. Some nonprofit leaders are also seeking a cash-relief program with a simpler grant application process.

Another item atop wish lists: extending and expanding charitable tax breaks for people who don’t itemize.

“We have to start to stimulate individual donors,” said Diane Drollinger, CEO of Network for Strong Communities, a nonprofit association in Missouri. “Over the years, we’ve lost some of those tax benefits from charitable giving. It would be great to have that be a little bit more robust coming down the road.”


— The number of nonprofit jobs lost during the pandemic, from Nonprofit Jobs Recovery Slows to a Crawl

New Approaches to Luring Midlevel Donors

“Concierge teams’’ are helping the Sierra Club make headway with midlevel donors — supporters who give year after year but are often overlooked by nonprofits focused on winning big gifts and keeping membership and annual funds thriving. Cory Tenbrink, who runs the effort, joined several other fundraisers to answer our reader questions about how to cultivate such donors in today’s uncertain world and hold onto them in the future.

Tenbrink says the group decided a smart first step was to ask midlevel donors some questions. “This builds a connection with the donor, the organization, and the concierge, so the donor understands that they have someone to go to when they have a question, interest, or concern,” he says.

Tenbrink admits this approach takes some time. But he says it is worth the effort, and it’s an approach that smaller organizations can take through their member-care department or with the help of one or two volunteers.

“Sometimes it is just about expressing gratitude and letting a member know who they can reach out to if they have any questions or problems,” Tenbrink says.

Find other ideas about courting midlevel donors in interviews Maria Di Mento conducted with Andrea O’Brien of the Wilderness Society and Vicky Barrett-Putnam, Tenbrink’s colleague at the Sierra Club.

Pose your own questions: Submit your conundrums on fundraising, leadership, or other nonprofit matters to Let us know if you’d like to remain anonymous.

Technology Case Study: How a Nonprofit Leaped Forward With Digital Apps

When it comes to technology, nonprofits often seem stuck in the 1980s, write Margaret Laws and Fred Dillon of Hopelab, a nonprofit that works with organizations to help them find innovative solutions that advance the health and welfare of young people.

Only about half of nonprofits offer a web or mobile app, and just 40 percent have a client web portal, according to a study conducted by Hopelab. These shortcomings left them ill-prepared when Covid-19 forced nonprofits accustomed to providing in-person services to abruptly move operations online.

But some groups are overcoming the challenges. Laws and Dillion detail the work they did with Nurse-Family Partnership to improve client services and keep young mothers engaged during the two-and-a-half-year voluntary program in which nurses do home visits to make sure new families are doing well. The experience outlines a playbook others can use, including the importance of finding staff members who are eager to produce change and also to test and test and test prototypes.

“For Nurse-Family Partnership, this testing uncovered an important lesson,” they write. “Some moms found it easier to bring up sensitive topics over the app, which helped nurses better prepare themselves to address those issues at the next meeting.”

What’s more, “the original design assumed nurses would want to use the app on their office computers, but both moms and nurses expressed a preference for a mobile app, leading to the creation of a mobile version for nurses before the product was more widely distributed.”

A Big Boost for Nonprofits Led by People of Color

American Express committed $50 million over four years to support nonprofit organizations around the world with leaders who are people of color or from underrepresented groups, with a focus on organizations that address inequality and promote social justice, writes M.J. Prest.

Also: Morgan Stanley is giving $12 million to provide scholarships for students at historically Black colleges and universities.

How Philanthropy Can Boost Corporate Diversity

While foundations are trying to diversify their own staff, they can be working to help businesses do the same, writes Cinny Kennard of the Annenberg Foundation.

In Los Angeles, she says, her foundation has helped technology and venture-capital companies learn to measure their progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion and to track the progress of the region to hold each other accountable.

The foundation is also helping the companies do better in providing mentorships and internships to people of color.

And it has launched the Fund for South LA Founders, a $500,000 fund for early-stage Black and Latinx company founders in South Los Angeles. In addition to getting grants, each company will receive 12 weeks of tailored training and support.

“Philanthropy can play a big role because of its singular ability to bring together people from nonprofits, government, and business, Kennard writes. “Philanthropic organizations are designed to accelerate partnerships and make connections. That’s what we do best.”

A Checklist for Boosting Support for Black-Led Nonprofits

“It’s not enough to say you support equity or you’re promoting inclusive giving. You have to visually, visibly show it.”
– Jacqueline Bouvier Copeland, founder of Black Philanthropy Month

The organizers of Black Philanthropy Month have developed a checklist for donors and investors designed to increase the flow of money to Black-led nonprofits and business ventures, writes Alex Daniels.

The principles were developed over the course of Black Philanthropy Month in August, a celebration that included four virtual conferences that attracted nearly 2,000 participants. Surveys and online polling of people who attended events guided organizers to draft the principles, including directing donors to provide general operating support and to trust grantees more.

The principles also ask donors to respect Black innovation and creativity and to preserve the “Black philanthropy practice of self-reliance and mutual support.”

“Black funding involves relying on community know-how and resources first, while also holding society accountable for equity,” the principles state.

People on the Move

Marissa Tirona, a Ford Foundation program officer, has been named to lead Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees. Tirona will succeed Daranee Petsod, the group’s founding president, who is stepping down after more than 20 years.

The Joyce Foundation has hired three new program officers:

  • Chibuzo Ezeigbo, a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research and the Academy for Urban School Leadership, will be a program officer for education and economic mobility.
  • Mia Khimm, managing director at Expo Chicago, is now director of the culture program.
  • Quintin Williams, who most recently led a campaign for criminal-justice reform in Illinois at the Heartland Alliance, has become a program officer on the foundation’s gun-violence prevention and justice-reform team.

See more in our Transitions column

New Grant Opportunities

Your Chronicle subscription includes free access to GrantStation’s database of grant opportunities. Among the latest listings:

  • Rural broadband. The Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect Grant Program offers financial assistance to provide broadband service in rural, economically challenged communities where broadband service does not exist. Projects should provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships, and innovation. The application deadline is December 2.
  • Youth volunteers addressing hunger. The Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholarships, funded by the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, is offering scholarships to students ages 5 to 25 who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to their community by performing unpaid volunteer services impacting hunger in the United States within the past 12 months. Winners will receive $5,000 scholarships, and the foundation will provide a $5,000 grant in their name to the hunger-related charity of their choice in their local community. Applications may be submitted through December 5.

Correction: Last week’s Philanthropy This Week said that Charles and Helen Schwab were giving $65 billion, instead of $65 million, to provide homes to people in the San Francisco area who don’t have a place to give.