keeping a close eye on philanthropy … NCRP’s blog

Why Don’t Our Elected Officials Look Like Us?

posted on: October 17, 2014

pollingplaceIn August, a federal judge ruled that Yakima, Washington’s prevailing election system violates the Voting Rights Act, finding that “the non-Latino majority in Yakima routinely suffocate the voting preferences of the Latino minority.”

In early October, a U.S. District Court in Virginia ruled that the state’s congressional district maps illegally concentrated the state’s African American voters into a single district in order to dilute their influence in others.

These rulings go to the heart of remarkable and, indeed, incendiary new research by Who Leads Us?, a project of the Women Donors Network’s Reflective Democracy Campaign. The research shows in sharp terms just how poorly the demographics of America’s elected officeholders reflect who we now are as a nation:

  • 90

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Mission Investing: A Conversation with Flozell Daniels, Jr. & Foundation for Louisiana

posted on: October 14, 2014

flozelldanielsjrEarlier this year, NCRP released a special edition of our quarterly journal dedicated to mission investing, or making investments that reflect an organization’s values. As foundations are only required to pay out 5 percent of their assets annually in grants and the administrative costs of making these grants, much of the remaining 95 percent is invested to strengthen the foundation’s economic viability. As such, mission investing can be just as important to creating change as grantmaking.

Many great groups promote investments that support both the economy and the greater good, such as Mission Investors Exchange, Confluence Philanthropy, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF) and Divest-Invest Philanthropy, just to name a few.

Foundation leaders,

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Do Feedback Loops in Philanthropy Create Stronger Accountability?

posted on: October 7, 2014

InfiniteLoopEditor’s note: This post first appeared in the Nonprofit Quarterly.

Three years ago, I accepted the challenge of implementing a program that provides “actionable feedback” for major foundations. It entailed assessing foundations, whether or not they wanted it, and then telling them and the public what the foundations were doing well and how they could improve.

When I described the idea to a close friend, she asked me, “Aren’t you worried about being able to get your next job after this one?”

Somehow, my answer was “No.” I was confident that there was a welcome mat in the sector for unsolicited, honest feedback and that many people in philanthropy would agree, perhaps secretly, that this would be good for

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Patrons Can Have Non-Patronizing Site Visits

posted on: October 3, 2014

sitevisitThe National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), like many organizations, encourages grantmakers to meet with their grantees and the communities they serve, as part of a greater strategy of engaging constituents, receiving feedback and witnessing firsthand the impact of philanthropic work in the “real world.” But, let’s face it: not all site visits are equal, and not all site visits are necessary.

So, let’s consider three questions grantmakers can ask themselves before pursuing a site visit.

(1) How do power dynamics affect the grantee-grantmaker partnership?

  • Before a site visit, let’s study the actors (grantees and grantmakers) and the relationship (partnership). “Grantee-grantmaker partnerships” is a popular phrase, but does it reveal a power imbalance? Let’s look deeper. Is

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Donor-Advised Funds Reform Faces Violent Opposition, For Now

posted on: October 1, 2014

bankvaultBy Alan Cantor

Editor’s note: This post first appeared on the Alan Cantor Consulting blog.

Arthur Schopenhauer said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

I’m no expert on German philosophers, but Schopenhauer really nails it. Just think of the cause of marriage equality, which has followed exactly that course, passing from ridicule to violent opposition to acceptance as self-evident over the course of the last 20 years.

The effort to reform donor-advised funds (DAFs) does not have nearly the societal ramifications of the marriage equality issue. That said, donor-advised fund reform is an enormously important issue for American philanthropy, and when viewed through

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Doug Stamm on the Meyer Memorial Trust’s – and His Own – Racial Equity Journey

posted on: September 25, 2014

Editor’s note: This guest post first appeared on the Meyer Memorial Trust’s blog.


DougStamm-NCRPBlogMeyer recently issued a statement on equity, a primer on our mission as a foundation and as individuals to do what is needed to enrich Oregon.

The statement is 429 words. It represents our recognition that to move forward, we have to look back and own the biases, oppression and disparities that shape this place that is our home. But it also represents a journey that the foundation started in earnest when we revised Meyer’s mission, vision and values.

I’m Oregon through and through, Portland-born and Stanford-educated. My socially liberal bona fides were well-honed. My friends, colleagues and acquaintances came in assorted colors and

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“Working Well With Grantees” and Being Better Partners

posted on: September 22, 2014

TheGuide_CEP“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and  working together is success.”

-Henry Ford

If grantmakers want to ensure their grantees’ success, and their own, they cannot neglect the importance of ongoing relationships. Unfortunately, the wider the power gap in a professional relationship, such as that between foundations and nonprofits, the more difficult it can be to sustain trust, respect, honesty and other qualities needed to support long-term partnerships. But this challenge doesn’t have to become a permanent point of division; there are important ways in which foundations and grantees can be better partners and advance their mutual success.

Last year, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) released Working Well With Grantees: A Guide for Foundation Program Staff

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