A free roundup of the most important news, opinion, tools, and resources of the week. Delivered every Saturday.
From: Stacy Palmer and Dan Parks
Subject: Billions to Fight Poverty; Funds for Racial Justice; Giving Is Strong but Uneven
MacKenzie Scott, Sergey Brin, the Duke Endowment, and Zoom are among the diverse set of grant makers collaborating to spread effective efforts to fight poverty through Blue Meridian Partners.
Our colleague Alex Daniels took readers inside the organization this week to show how it is distributing big unrestricted grants and offering the coaching and other skills nonprofits need to become more effective. What sets it apart from other philanthropic work, say experts, is that it is making investments over a decade or more — since that is how long it often takes to shape an approach that works.
Nancy Roob, the organization’s president, said that when the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation spun off Blue Meridian as an independent organization, she expected that it might attract $1 billion in a decade. But in three years, it has already amassed $2.5 billion. Even though that beat all expectations, it’s still a small sliver of what is needed to help millions of Americans improve their economic situations, Roob says.
Among the efforts Blue Meridian is supporting: It has provided $37.5 million to the Center for Employment Opportunities, which provides jobs and other services to people leaving prison. The group had been growing fast, expanding from one site to 30, but it needed time to figure out how to become more effective. (One of its efforts is pictured above.) The center realized it needed to do more to work with government agencies and expand its policy and marketing teams, and its strategy work helped it attract grants from other foundations.
Now Sam Schaeffer, the center’s chief executive, hopes philanthropy will stay active in helping people who have been incarcerated. “We’ve never seen more money come in so quickly,” he says. “Despite lots of enthusiasm around justice reform in the last five to 10 years and the growing acceptance of doing better by people when they return home, there’s still a paucity of services.”
Another effective donor collaboration got the spotlight this week as our colleague Olivera Perkins examined the Southern Power Fund, which has been taking a far different approach from Blue Meridian but one that also seems to be working. The fund sought to raise $10 million after last year’s racial reckoning, but it has already attracted more than $14 million and has enlisted nonprofits closest to the problems to figure out how to disperse the money.
Most of the roughly 250 grants distributed to grassroots groups in the South were for $40,000, and those tiny sums made a big difference. “It gets the money out of the hands of institutional philanthropy and into the hands of people who actually know what is happening and are doing the work,” says Ash-Lee Henderson, co-executive director of Tennessee’s renowned Highlander Research and Education Center.
(This article is part of a joint project by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Associated Press exploring racial justice and equity efforts in philanthropy.)
Here’s What Else You Need to Know
Giving is strong so far this year, but not every group or cause is benefiting, a new analysis finds.
The number of donors to the nation’s charities hit a new high in the first quarter of 2021 as charities attracted new supporters and kept previous contributors giving again and again. That’s what a study released this week by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project found. But the picture is very uneven as donations pour into human-service groups while other nonprofits struggle to attract contributions, reports Emily Haynes.
The debate over how to teach racism to the nation’s students offers an opportunity for progressive philanthropy. In our opinion pages, Alvin Starks of the Open Society Foundations and Pamela Shifman, former head of the NoVo Foundation, take note of the debate over critical race theory and how conservative donors have funded opposition efforts. “Those who fund and perpetrate these attacks on racial justice and equality are hoping to divide us from one another, prevent us from seeing the humanity in one another, and privilege nostalgia and white comfort over hard truths,” they write.
Meanwhile, this week we learned an unexpected way in which the pandemic is changing giving: It appears to have helped close the gender gap in philanthropy among the rich, Maria Di Mento reports. Men are catching up to women in terms of the importance they place on philanthropy, according to a study commissioned by Fidelity Charitable.
Still, women’s motivations are very different from men’s, the study found. Maria will explore what women want most from charitable causes in a live, free briefing on Tuesday, June 29, at 3 p.m. Eastern. Sign up now so you can join us as she interviews:
- Liz Thompson, CEO of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education
- Abby Falik, head of Global Citizen Year
We look forward to seeing you online on Tuesday — and we hope you have a great weekend.
GivingAt age 90, Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, has resigned as a trustee from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He says has he has no plans to step down from his role at Berkshire.
OpinionWe have more knowledge about philanthropy than ever before, but we need to be wary of the limitations of that knowledge and the objectivity behind the data.
Letter to the EditorWhat ‘Giving USA’ Really Told Us: Average Americans Are Giving a Smaller Share of Their Incomes to CharitiesAnalyzing the data shows that even though many people accumulated great wealth last year, their philanthropy did not keep up.
OpinionPublishing salaries upfront both hurts the ability of organizations to assemble a diverse candidate pool and fails to result in higher salaries for those who receive job offers.
OpinionNonprofits and foundations are rallying to help educators, health workers, and others who support the young, the old, and people with disabilities. But policy changes will come up short unless we stop using a phrase that suggests caring is a natural skill, not a career choice.
Grants RoundupAlso, three investment firms have pledged $90 million to train students at historically Black colleges and universities for careers in cryptocurrency and other alternative investments.
Gifts RoundupPlus, a community college in Long Beach, Calif., landed $30 million from the billionaire MacKenzie Scott, and her former in-laws, Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos, gave $12 million to a private school for financial aid.
What We’re Reading Elsewhere
Here are some of the articles that attracted our attention in the past week. We provide these summaries every day in our free Philanthropy Today newsletter. (Sign up now.)
Museums have for years embraced the notions of diversity and broader access, yet change was incremental before last year’s tumult. (Barron’s)
The growing wealth of U.S. billionaires, even as they step up their charitable giving, is supercharging the debate over fast or slow philanthropy. (Bloomberg)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has played a key role in the global response to the pandemic, but increasingly vocal critics say it has done as much harm as good. (Seattle Times)
The Boy Scouts of America is considering dropping a deal with Hartford Financial Services for the insurer to pay out $650 million to men suing the nonprofit over sexual abuse claims. (Wall Street Journal — subscription)
Almost half of 165,000 pandemic-related crowdfunding campaigns last year received no donations, and the patterns of giving reinforced persistent wealth inequities, a new study has found. (New York Times)
The Ikea and Rockefeller foundations are investing $1 billion into renewable energy projects in developing countries. (Reuters)
New Grant Opportunities
Your Chronicle subscription includes free access to GrantStation’s database of grant opportunities. Among the latest listings:
Native Americans. The AmeriCorps Indian Tribes Grants program seeks to strengthen communities through the use of AmeriCorps volunteers. Priorities include Covid-19 recovery efforts; programs addressing racial equality; economic opportunity efforts, such as broadband, agriculture, and low-income housing; education, including STEM; environmental stewardship, including traditional food systems; healthy futures, including reducing and preventing prescription drug and opioid abuse; veterans and military families; and programs that reduce child poverty. The application deadline is July 23.
Youth Homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program supports comprehensive community approaches to serving homeless youths ages 24 and under. The objectives are to build national momentum toward addressing homelessness, promote equity in the delivery and outcomes of homelessness assistance, evaluate the coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness, expand capacity, and evaluate the use of performance measurement strategies designed to better measure youth outcomes. The application deadline is July 27.