Empathy and compassion receive support

Read today about a $100 million gift to UCSD to study empathy and compassion and to cultivate those qualities in physicians. The donor, Denny Sanford, said his donation was influenced by a private meeting he had with the Dalai Lama when His Holiness visited UCSD in 2017 to give the commencement address. “I have been inspired by the work and teachings of the Dalai Lama, whose interest in the intersection where science and faith meet is deep and profound,” Sanford said, “I have had the opportunity to see how grace, humanity and kindness can change people and the world. This gift extends that vision.” Sanford grew up during the Great Depression, lost his mother to breast cancer when he was four, and began working in a warehouse when he was eight. Today, he is a philanthropist billionaire. Mr. Sanford’s total giving to date worldwide is over one billion dollars, demonstrating his commitment to his own humble motto: “Aspire to inspire before you expire.”

Gender Bias in Grant Making

In the June 4 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Alex Daniels reports on efforts by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to find out whether their own team’s evaluation of grant applications was colored by gender bias. To answer that question, researchers performed a review of 6,794 proposals from the foundation’s Global Challenges (2008 to 2017). Their finding: Women applicants were 15 percent less likely than men to receive a “silver” rating and 20 percent less likely to receive a “gold” rating from the reviewers. A big reason was that the men tended to use “broad” words to describe the sweep of their work, while women researchers stuck close to “topic-specific” vocabulary to describe how their work would advance causes like agriculture, nutrition, and disease research. I so appreciate the Gates’ Foundation’s reflective efforts to address gender bias internally as well as globally.

Volunteering in orphanages: more harm than good

Eight million children live in orphanages and other institutions globally. More than 80 percent are not orphans but have been separated from their families, in part to attract volunteers who also donate money and in part to feed an insatiable demand from traffickers and human slavery supply chains. “Orphan tourism” has been called the “perfect 21st-century scam,” attracting visitors who believe they are doing good, when in fact their good deeds are fueling an industry based on child exploitation. To learn more about the need to end the systematic institutionalization of children worldwide, visit Lumos (co-founded in 2014 by J.K. Rowling) and ReThink Orphanages, a coalition founded in 2013 to share information about the impact of international volunteering in orphanages and raise awareness about the negative effects of volunteering in these settings.

An Unconventional Guide to Making a Meaningful Gift

The 2018 Unconventional Guide to Making a Meaningful Gift from California Association of Nonprofits is a good basic primer for giving this holiday season, particularly for its cautionary information about where and how not to give this time of year. And for the philanthropy nerd on your list, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas offers a thought provoking perspective on how the global elite’s efforts to “change the world” preserves the status quo and obscures their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve. Agree or disagree, it’s sparking an important conversation.

Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age

Are today’s donor classes solving problems—or creating new ones? “We live, it is often said, in a new Gilded Age—an era of extravagant wealth and almost as extravagant displays of generosity. In the past fifteen years, some thirty thousand private foundations have been created, and the number of donor-advised funds has roughly doubled. The Giving Pledge—signed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and more than a hundred and seventy other gazillionaires who have promised to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy—is Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel” stripped down and updated. And as the new philanthropies have proliferated so, too, have the critiques.” This is a quote fron a thought provoking article in the New Yorker that is worth a read.

Love Heals

I’ve just returned from two days at Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN, where female survivors of trafficking, addiction and prostitution heal, recover and gain economic freedom through job training, employment and the power of unconditional love. Thistle Farms is uniquely successful and powerful – beginning with a proven residential recovery model that informs a national network of sister organizations and then multiplies its impact by inviting survivor-led organizations worldwide to join in a shared trade marketplace. Shop for the freedom of women at their amazing online store and let the love heal you too.

 

 

Don’t believe it

There’s a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen to charitable gifts in 2018 when fewer people itemize deductions on their tax returns. Much of the reporting about this issue has asserted that the nonprofit sector is headed for a big loss; as if America’s safety net sector needed more reasons to feel overburdened and under-appreciated. Perhaps these prognosticators are correct. But perhaps not. The vast majority of donors with whom I work give because they are committed to creating a more just and sustainable world. These generous souls will continue to invest in their favorite causes with or without a tax deduction because they believe in the work and receive value from being aligned with morally courageous endeavors. Let’s not contribute to the echo chamber prematurely spreading news of our demise. Instead, let’s be clear about our own narrative. Our nonprofit sector is uniquely American, uniquely powerful and uniquely positioned to be a force for good in 2018.

The triumph of gratitude

The past year has not been an easy one. From personal to political loss, most people I know have struggled at some time during the past 12 months to hold on to their optimism and ideals. I am no exception. Which is why I actively look for stories and organizations that renew my spirit, gird me for the hard work ahead, and fill me with gratitude. Here’s one of my favorites: a beautifully filmed four-minute video about the New Life Center, a safe and joyous home for children living with HIV/AIDS and their caretakers. Gratitude, hope, heart — it will inspire all of these, I promise.

To Kickstart or not to Kickstart

If you work for a nonprofit, I suspect you have been strongly encouraged by a board member, colleague or supporter to launch a Kickstarter campaign. But should you? The Denver Post just published an eye opening article, “The Smithsonian used Kickstarter for Armstrong’s suit and Dorothy’s slippers—was it worth it?” Among the highlights: most Kickstarter projects seek $10,000 or less, and about two-thirds fail…only 3 percent of projects with budgets greater than $100,000 succeed; the Smithsonian exceeded its very ambitious fundraising goals, but spent $38 of every $100 raised to implement the online campaign, far more than the overhead rate commonly considered reasonable by charity rating sites; and even with the starting advantage of 2.6 million Twitter followers and more than 530,000 Facebook followers, the campaign involved two public affairs officers, an Air and Space development officer, the Smithsonian central development officer, a conservator, a curator and a videographer.

Slide Ranch

slide ranchMy solace is found in nature. So it is with much gratitude that I accepted an invitation to join the Advisory Board of Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, CA, a wonderful nonprofit that sparks a love of nature in children of all ages. Through farming, cooking, caring for animals and exploring wilderness and the coast, Slide Ranch teaches the connection between health, a healthy food system and a healthy environment. Especially important to me is the fact that through scholarships and school programs, Slide Ranch hosts thousands of children each year who would otherwise have no opportunity to experience the unique beauty, joy and peace of mind found in nature. It’s a glorious place and its mission is more important today than ever before.

P.S. To help with its sustainability, the ranch now has a gorgeous new facility it rents for weddings and other special occasions. Check it out and let your friends know.