Good morning.

As the war in Ukraine puts the spotlight on energy sources, climate activists see an opening for promoting more aggressive efforts to protect the planet.

In our March cover story, posted this week, we took an in-depth look at the fierce fight over how philanthropy can help avert catastrophic warming.

As Jim Rendon noted in his article, nobody wants to get this one wrong, given the stakes of failure. But there is growing disagreement about the path forward just as more money is flowing into climate giving — especially with Jeff Bezos’s $10 billion Earth Fund already sending more than one-tenth of its assets to nonprofits.

At the crux of the debate is whether philanthropy’s focus should be on persuading government and industry to change their ways or on strengthening grassroots movements that can build public pressure to stop fossil-fuel extraction and push adoption of local solutions to the climate crisis.

Jim spent time looking at the track record of one of the biggest players, ClimateWorks, which was formed by a group of foundations and has distributed more than $1.3 billion. It says its work, which focuses largely on policy change, has helped slow the warming of the planet — and led to adoption of solar and wind energy as well as electric vehicles.

But other experts and philanthropists say its approach is thwarting what’s really needed — strong activist networks. That’s why Lee Wasserman, head of the Rockefeller Family Fund, says more grant makers need to fund groups that won’t shy away from identifying the bad actors and fighting for bold solutions — just as the civil-rights movement and the push for gay marriage did.

That won’t be easy, Wasserman concedes. “Funders are lovers, not fighters,” he says. But “big transformational change almost never happens in this country without fights.”

Here’s what else you need to know:

Sharmila (Mona) Sinha is a globally recognized advocate for gender equality in business and society.

Wealthy donors of color so often face discrimination that it stifles their full participation in philanthropy.

Assumptions by trustees or fundraisers that they don’t belong in a boardroom or wouldn’t have big enough homes or enough personal connections to hold a lucrative fundraising event can crush their spirit, according to a report based on interviews with 113 millionaires of color.

The report, by the Donors of Color Network and two consulting firms, found that nearly everyone interviewed had experienced racial or ethnic bias, reports Emily Haynes.

The emotional toll of operating in a mostly white environment has discouraged many wealthy people of color from seeking out philanthropic leadership roles, philanthropist Mona Sinha (above), board chair of Women Moving Millions, told Emily. “With many people, I find that the discrimination over the years has so damaged self-worth that it’s very hard to claim that spot.”

A homeless man sits beside his belongings on the streets in the Skid Row community of Los Angeles, California on April 26, 2021. - A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit that seeks to end the city’s Skid Row homelessness crisis isn’t backing down from his order requiring that all indigent persons in the area be offered shelter within six months. US District Judge David O. Carter is opening the door for more discussions by setting additional hearing dates and clarifying some portions of his ruling. (Frederic J. Brown, AFP, Getty Images)

Foundations could go a long way toward solving homelessness — and make a profit in the bargain — by investing endowment money in housing.

With billions in government and philanthropic dollars flowing to “entrenched and generally unimaginative strategies” to fix homelessness, the problem has grown worse in recent years, writes Daniel Heimpel, executive editor of the Giving List, in an opinion essay.

But programs in Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere are demonstrating how grant makers can invest money from their considerable endowments in acquiring, building, and rehabilitating apartments and dorm-like units — and do so much more efficiently and quickly than local governments. This approach provides a steady stream of rental income for foundations, almost guaranteeing a nearly recession-proof return on investment.

“Grant makers could have far more impact if they viewed every unhoused person as an investment opportunity for those assets, which now total an estimated $1 trillion nationwide,” he writes. “While it may sound callous, making homelessness profitable could be our best chance of ending it.”

In-person conferences and fundraising events have made a comeback, and everyone wants to network.

After a two-year hiatus, the Association of Fundraising Professionals annual live conference returns in May at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, reports Dan Parks. Fundraising Day in New York also returns to an in-person event this year, in June at the Marriott Marquis Times Square.

What has changed the most as conferences return is that long speeches and workshops are on the way out.

People are so excited to see each other and network that they don’t have the patience for sitting and listening, Reggie Rivers, president of the Denver-based Gala Team, told Dan.

Live events started picking up a few months ago. “We’ve already done about 10 events,” notes Rivers. “It’s about as normal as you can imagine. It shocks me.”

As you get ready for the week ahead, do be sure to join us for a live event on Wednesday that will help you do your job better.

Alison Fine and Beth Kanter, authors of the just-released book The Smart Nonprofit: Staying Human-Centered in an Automated World — are joining us for a free discussion that will provide you with plenty of ideas to put to work today. Plus, you will have the chance to win a free copy of the book. Sign up now so you can be part of the conversation at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Many of you probably know Alison and Beth from their contributions to our pages, and what’s best about them is that they know the challenges of nonprofit work from their own experiences. So you can count on them to stretch your mind and be practical at the same time.

We hope you’ll have a chance to unwind this weekend and look forward to seeing you online on Wednesday.

Stay strong.

Marilyn Dickey and Stacy Palmer

P.S. Subscribers to the Chronicle have access to all the articles we mention in this newsletter and much more. If you’re not yet a subscriber, we have a special offer available just for you. It expires on March 15 so sign up now and you will have unlimited access to the insights, advice, news, and trends you need to do your job better and stay connected with your peers in the nonprofit world.

More News, Advice, and Opinion


About Ukraine

Medical aid groups are scrambling to help Ukrainians amid what one official from the World Health Organization called “the worst possible ingredients for the amplification and spread of infectious disease.” (Wall Street Journal — subscription)

Major philanthropic, educational, and cultural institutions in the United States are under scrutiny for the donations they have received over several years from oligarchs linked to the Kremlin. (Washington Post)

As philanthropists look for ways to help Ukrainians caught in Russia’s invasion, they should try to provide immediate relief while also thinking long term. (Barron’s)

Other News

As part of a new deal aimed at settling thousands of lawsuits over the opioid crisis, the Sackler family has agreed to let institutions that took its name in exchange for donations remove the name without penalty. (Artnet News)

The Clinton Foundation will relaunch its Global Initiative in September, six years after suspending it during Hillary Clinton’s run for president. (Associated Press)

A massive fraud probe into feeding programs in Minneapolis is raising questions about nonprofit watchdogs’ role in handing out federal funds. (New York Times)

The J. Paul Getty Trust is suing the Allianz Global Investors firm over a $71 million loss in its $9.2 billion endowment. (ARTnews)

Newly released emails show athletics staff and fundraisers at the University of Southern California discussing admissions for certain applicants while assessing their families’ ability to donate to the institution. (Wall Street Journal — subscription)


Your Chronicle subscription includes free access to GrantStation’s database of grant opportunities.

Financial planning. The Foundation for Financial Planning supports programs that provide pro bono financial planning from certified professionals to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Grants range from $5,000 to $40,000 to fund programs helping active military members and veterans, people with cancer, seniors and family caregivers, domestic-violence survivors, low-income families, and more. Online applications must be submitted by April 30.

Voter participation. The Herb Block Foundation supports projects that promote citizen education and greater voter participation in the electoral process. All projects must be nonpartisan and may not involve lobbying for specific legislation or candidates. The deadline for letters of inquiry is June 1.