Woman and child join solidarity rally at Long Island mosque in 2021

Good morning.

This week we learned the extent to which Americans channeled their anger about the murder of George Floyd into philanthropic efforts designed to end racism: Sixteen percent of households gave to social- and racial-justice causes, a 3 percentage point rise from 2019.

Donors of color were behind much of the shift, Eden Stiffman reports. Thirty-one percent of Asian American households, 19 percent of Black households, and 14 percent of Hispanic households said they gave to those causes in 2020, while 13 percent of white non-Hispanic households did so.

Those findings come from a new study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which looked not just at gifts to nonprofits that are the traditional beneficiaries of charitable donations but also at contributions to grassroots social movements and direct support for individuals or families affected by racial injustices.

Una Osili, the Lilly Family School scholar who oversaw the research, says that expansive view was crucial because in the eyes of donors, the question of the past year was, “How do you get resources into the hands of the people who can actually use the funds, who are driving change, who are achieving impact?

Why these individual donors matter: The Lilly study was issued on the heels of a Washington Post analysis of giving by the nation’s 50 biggest companies. Of the $49.5 billion those businesses publicly committed to racial justice and equality efforts after George Floyd’s murder last year, $4.2 billion, less than 10 percent, was awarded in the form of grants that nonprofits can quickly put to use. The rest will come as loans and investments.


Strong investment returns allowed one-third of foundations to increase their giving last year


The annual Council on Foundations-Commonfund study found that private foundations reported an average 13.1 percent return on their investment assets last year, Michael Theis reports.

Combined with the urgent needs in the wake of the Covid crisis and the racial-justice reckoning, those investment gains persuaded 33 percent of foundations to increase their giving over 2019. That’s a substantial rise — the previous year only a quarter of philanthropies increased the amount they distributed.

A major foundation has plans to boost its giving in the South and to attract other foundations there


Fay Twersky, the new president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, says the grant maker has plans to direct more than tens of millions of dollars in annual grants to nonprofits focused on democracy, the environment, and youth development — and that its grant making will increase considerably over the next decade. Much of the money will go to charities in Georgia, where Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, made his fortune.

Twersky also hopes to parlay her reputation as a prominent grant maker and her considerable network of contacts to attract other foundations to the South.

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How one of the nation’s biggest community funds expanded its support of grassroots leaders


To find out who the movers and shakers are in a particular neighborhood — not necessarily people with official titles — the San Francisco Foundation asks local residents who they call when there is a problem, writes Alex Daniels. The foundation then picks 12 leaders in that neighborhood and provides $300,000 to design and implement a program to improve life in the area. In the Mission District, where huge increases in housing rental costs have made it hard for low-income immigrant residents to remain in the area, the fellows created a program to train people from all walks of life to become better advocates.

“Those informal leaders set the agenda,” Fred Blackwell, the foundation’s president, told Alex. “It’s completely driven by them.”

Plus: See the rest of our special report on How a Tumultuous Year Is Shaping Grant Making.

Now is an opportune time for the Gates Foundation to shift the balance of power in its grant making


That’s according to Meg Massey and Ben Wrobel, authors of a book on “participatory grant making,” who call on Gates to ditch its insular, opaque process in favor of one that involves activists and others experiencing the problems the foundation is trying to solve. Simply asking others’ advice isn’t enough, they write. Too often, that is little more than optics. With the impending divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates and recent changes to the board — Warren Buffett’s resignation and the death of Bill Gates Sr. — a transition to a system that brings “more diverse perspectives and expertise into the conversation” would also create accountability and transparency — which the foundation sorely lacks, the authors write.



And as colleges nationwide begin the fall term, you’ll want to read Emily Haynes’s look at a UCLA course that teaches students how to give, including a hands-on assignment to distribute $80,000. UCLA is one of 26 universities that received a grant to create such a course and found it so important, it now pays for it on its own.

Jennifer Lindholm, a UCLA provost who teaches the course, told Emily that the philanthropy curriculum feels especially important given the crises that college students have been surrounded by as they reach adulthood. “They have a weight of responsibility that they are faced with,” she says. “That could be overwhelming, and it is our responsibility as educators to really help support them in learning how to lead and how to thrive.”

Academe was much on our minds this week for another reason: We learned on Monday about the death of the nonprofit scholar Lester Salamon from his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Centers for Civil Society Studies. Salamon appeared frequently in our pages, helping us give important context to our stories, especially when it came to nonprofit finances, hiring, and relations with government.

In a piece he wrote for us a decade ago about the death of another influential player in the nonprofit world, Peter Goldberg, he describeda generous and thoughtful innovator.” Perfect words to describe Salamon himself.

Look ahead: Donor-advised fund briefing. Join Stacy Palmer on September 9 as she moderates a briefing on a Senate bill designed to speed giving from donor-advised funds and foundations. We’ll explain what you need to know about support and opposition for the legislation — and you’ll hear from a Giving Pledge donor to learn what she thinks about the policy changes. Sign-up details are below.

Many nonprofits and foundations are taking a break next week before the busy fall season so we’re doing the same. We’ll be back in your inbox on September 11 and keeping our site updated with news as it occurs — plus our new September issue will be available on September 8.

Stay strong and stay well.

Marilyn Dickey and Stacy Palmer

More News and Opinion


Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen has resigned amid blowback from news that she advised the administration of former N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how to handle sexual-harassment accusations. (New York Times)

Many aid groups in Afghanistan are in a holding pattern, wondering whether to leave or stay and see how reformed the current version of the Taliban is. (NPR)

The earthquake in Haiti gives aid organizations a chance to learn from the missteps in rebuilding that many made after the country’s devastating earthquake in 2010. (Fast Company)

Serial investor and billionaire Ron Perelman’s name will not appear on a new residential college at Princeton University after he reportedly failed to make good on a $65 million pledge announced in 2018. (Daily Beast)


Your Chronicle subscription includes free access to GrantStation’s database of grant opportunities. GrantStation is on hiatus, but we’ll share the latest listings when it returns.

Health disparities. The Cigna Foundation is supporting nonprofits that address the causes of health inequity and that focus on chronic disease treatment and prevention, mental or behavioral health conditions, dental health, wellness programs, or maternal, prenatal, and newborn health. Grants will range from $50,000 to $100,000 per year for up to three years. The application process will be open from August 30 to September 24.

Environmental jobs training. The Environmental Protection Agency supports programs that recruit, train, and place unemployed and underemployed residents with the skills needed to secure full-time employment in the environmental field. The program seeks to further environmental justice by ensuring that residents living in communities historically affected by economic disinvestment, health disparities, and environmental contamination, including low-income, minority, and tribal communities, have an opportunity to reap the benefits of revitalization and environmental cleanup. The application deadline is October 5.