Our blog has moved to johnsoncenter.org/blog

25 Jun

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy recently overhauled our website, integrating the blog into the other features on the site. You can now read the new blog at johnsoncenter.org/blog.

If you are a subscriber of our blog, you can update your subscription by subscribing at eepurl.com/XGtZb. With your new subscription you will continue to receive blogs directly to your email.

Nonprofit Studies and Civil Society

5 Jun

by Dr. Salvatore Alaimo, assistant professor, School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration

131210_Fireplace-2732There are now approximately 200 graduate programs across the United States that focus on studying nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. Many of them reside within public administration schools or programs with some in business schools. More recently some have emerged to brand themselves as more stand alone programs such as the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University or the new Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (MPNL) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). The emergence of these programs began mostly in the 1990’s and we have seen substantial growth since, in part spurred by the fact that nonprofit organizations now employ approximately 10% of our entire workforce, larger than some entire industries. However, their short history has resulted with the general public not being as familiar with them as they might be with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or a Master’s in Social Work (MSW), two programs that have much longer tenure. This lacking of awareness does not reflect a lack of importance.

Civil Society is defined as “A sphere of ideas, values, institutions, organizations, networks, and individuals located between family, the state and the market” (Anheier, 2005). Graduate education focusing on philanthropy and nonprofit administration helps prepare leaders and managers to effectively and efficiently engage in and contribute to civil society by addressing the issues important to citizens that may be insufficiently addressed by business or government. We might agree that some complex social problems that have existed for many years require the collaborative effort of all three “sectors.” We are seeing more evidence of such efforts through social entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships. Graduate education programs grapple with staying current on what is a constantly moving target, what current and future leaders and managers of these organizations require to effectively operate within their environment.

We need to remind ourselves, however, that nonprofit organizations are not just “gap fillers” or “service providers” as they often are characterized by government and the organizations themselves. They are the vehicles for citizen participation through artistic or religious expression, advocacy, and building community. The responsibility of these graduate programs is not to just keep pace with trends but to also ensure that students receive a holistic approach to their education. This means incorporating ethics across curriculum and not just in one course, embedding the concept of philanthropy from a historical and humanities foundation, and balancing the mix of a liberal and professional education so that graduates are well-rounded, inclusive, critical thinkers.

The MPNL program at GVSU represents an effort dedicated to philanthropic and nonprofit leadership, however the roles of government and business play an important part in curriculum and instruction because we continue to see the importance of the interaction of all types of organizations. All graduate programs in nonprofit and philanthropic studies, including our new MPNL, need to reflect, rethink and revise what we offer our students because we owe it to them and to our civil society.


Around the Web — items our blog readers might find of interest

28 May

Welcome to the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s bi-weekly blog post providing links to online resources that may be of interest to our readers — new tools, thought pieces, reports, and other items.

The Nonprofit Quarterly flags issues about organizational hybridity that they “think are important for the sector and its funders to consider.”

The NonProfit Times lists four ways nonprofit managers can reward their employees.

The Urban Institute’s “National Study of Nonprofit-Government Contracts and Grants 2013: State Profiles” can be used to help nonprofits assess their experiences and identify ways to improve processes.

Adam Grant, Wharton professor, author of “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success,” and LinkedIn influencer, posts nine rules of politeness for email outreach. Find it and other professional insights on Grant’s LinkedIn page.

051814-md-national-main-street-conference0131The National Main Street Center is the most effective downtown revitalization effort in the country with every dollar invested in 2013 resulting in $33.28 of economic development. Read how one Michigan city is using volunteers to tackle all aspects of downtown development in Rapid Growth GR.

The Bridgespan Group posted an article with three simple tools for constructing your nonprofit board from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

While panhandling has been ruled a First Amendment right, many communities are limiting it. Read two opposing views on one city’s proposed panhandling rules in MLive.

 

 

Exploring cultures of philanthropy

27 May

By Dr. Teri Behrens, director of special projects and editor in chief of The Foundation Review at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy

140516_New 1st Grade Library_28What influences the ways in which major donors in a community make their charitable contributions? Is there such a thing as a “philanthropic culture” that can be measured, or at least described?

My colleagues Michael Moody (Frey Foundation Chair for Family Foundations and Philanthropy), Michelle Miller-Adams (associate professor, Political Science, GVSU), Grace Denny (graduate student, GVSU) and I have begun exploring these questions, beginning with looking at philanthropic patterns in the West Michigan cities of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. The communities are similar in many ways: In both places, wealthy donors with local roots have invested heavily to improve the quality of life, revitalize the urban core, and develop a strong arts and cultural infrastructure. However, the two communities differ in significant ways, such as how local donors use different kinds of philanthropic institutions and the issue areas to which they contribute.

We’ve been using a variety of data sources — interviews, Foundation Center data, 990s, the Million Dollar Donors database at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and a social capital survey done in both communities in 2000.

Some of the things we’ve been looking at are:

  • What mechanisms do donors use most frequently — individual giving, family foundations, community foundations, United Way?
  • Does the level of social capital in a community influence giving patterns?
  • Do hometown donors tend to give locally or nationally or internationally?
  • What community factors are related to different “styles” of giving — anonymous giving vs. naming building, for example?
  • How is involvement in religious organizations related to giving to secular organizations?
  • How are giving patterns related to the business cultures and sources of wealth?
  • What factors are related to what types of causes or organizations are supported?

As a sneak peak, we’ve found that giving through foundations is more common in both communities than is true nationally. However, in one community, family foundations are a major vehicle; in the smaller community, the community foundation is a primary vehicle.

Our preliminary results will be available in late summer. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what other factors we should include.

Around the Web — items our blog readers might find of interest

15 May

Welcome to the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s bi-weekly blog post providing links to online resources that may be of interest to our readers — new tools, thought pieces, reports, and other items.

An article in The Nonprofit Quarterly offers tools for nonprofit boards who must move systematically and cautiously when funds go missing.

Related, an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy discusses why charities “should be held to a higher standard of ethics” and why a “culture of constructive self-criticism” has yet to embed itself.

Watchdog National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy recently launched Philamplify, a project pairing assessments of the top-100 foundations with an interactive website.

The HBR Blog Network discusses altruistic or selfless behavior of managers characterized by the trait of humility as one of four critical leadership factors.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s episode of Social Good talks about how nonprofits and foundations can move beyond contacts and connections to relationships by looking at Relationship Science, a subscription service with a big data platform mapping over 3 1/2 million influential people.

 

Effective Storytelling

13 May

By Emily Walters, marketing and communications coordinator at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

“We don’t need more information. We need to know what it means. We need a story that explains what it means and makes us feel like we fit in there somewhere.” – Annette Simmons, The Story Factor

Storytelling is one of the most powerful and effective but perhaps one of the most underutilized tools that a brand or business can use to effectively communicate. Stories can be used to persuade, motivate, and inspire. They help people understand what organizations do and make a compelling case for support.

I assume that many readers of this blog work for a nonprofit or a foundation and are invested in advancing the mission of their organization. In an effort to make a case for funders and investors, it is easy to get bogged down with data and facts. I believe that the effective use of storytelling helps keep your audience from getting lost in the numbers.

Effective storytelling techniques coupled with strong datasets, provide a more persuasive argument than data could accomplish alone. Combining stories and data engages not only the rational side of the brain but also the emotional one and allows the impact of your analytical results to be understood by non-analytical people. People respond to stories; having evidence and data on your side is important but having a good story on hand to complement the data will make your work more memorable.

People tend to stay away from telling stories because they think that a good story needs to tug at the heartstrings. In reality, a good story needs to be relatable, applicable, and create a personal connection with the audience. It can be done with heartwarming stories. It can also be done through pictures, infographics, and testimonials.

Let’s take a look at two examples that present the same information in different ways:

    1. Survey respondents were asked to respond to the questions, “How well are you able to meet your basic needs?” Overall, 79 percent of survey respondents indicated they are able to meet their needs very or fairly well. However a deeper look shows that there are significant differences in how well you are able to afford your basic needs based on your race/ethnicity, income, and education. Eighty-seven percent of people in Grand Rapids with a college degree are able to meet their basic needs very or fairly well and 13 percent indicated that they are able to meet their basic needs not very well or not at all. On the flip side, 67 percent of people without a college degree are able to meet their basic needs very or fairly well and 33 percent rate their ability to meet their basic needs as not very well or not at all.

    2. In the fall of 2013, the Johnson Center asked greater Grand Rapids residents to share their voices on the most important issues surrounding their lives and over 3,000 people responded. They answered questions about their basic needs, housing, employment, safety, discrimination, healthcare, kids, and their perceptions of the City of Grand Rapids. When asked about the topic of basic needs, the majority indicated that they are able to meet their needs very or fairly well. However a deeper look shows that there are significant differences in how well you are able to afford your basic needs based on your race/ethnicity, income, and education. This is what we found:st The data indicates that 87 percent of people in Grand Rapids with a college degree are able to meet their basic needs very or fairly well and 13 percent indicated that they are able to meet their basic needs not very well or not at all. On the flip side, 67 percent of people without a college degree are able to meet their basic needs very or fairly well and 33 percent rate their ability to meet their basic needs as not very well or not at all.

Which one did you find easier to understand? I hope that you said the second one.

Data becomes more accessible when presented in the form of a story, with the context of time, place, and relatable language. The picture tells a story that the numbers can’t and allows the reader to easily understand the data rather than sifting through the numbers to make a decision on their own. Sharing data in this manner opens the door for conversation and allows your audience to say, ‘Ok, what’s next?”

As a communications professional, I believe that storytelling is a skill that each member of an organization can develop. Here are a few resources about effective storytelling that I found particularly helpful and I hope that you do as well:

The Goodman Center, top notch marketing and communications firms known for their work in storytelling, presenting, and strategic communications, offers excellent resources for those looking to expand their storytelling techniques.

The Harvard Business Review recently published articles with great ideas to get you started – 10 kinds of stories to tell with data, The quick and dirty on data visualization, and A data scientists real job: storytelling.

 

 

 

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