McKenzie Scott leads

In her recent blog announcing an additional 286 grants she has awarded, McKenzie Scott offers a master class in philanthropy that centers equity, dignity, trust, generosity and a wholly relational approach to thinking about impact. She writes, “People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating. This is equally — perhaps especially — true when their work is funded by wealth. Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.” She closes her blog with one of my favorite Rumi quotes: “A candle as it diminishes explains, Gathering more and more is not the way. Burn, Become light and heat and help. Melt.” I am so inspired to be able to follow and learn more from her as she continues forging new ground.

How Philanthropy Can Support Systems-Change Leaders

For those interested in the possibilities ahead for big picture philanthropy, I recommend this report from The Bridgespan Group and this one as well: “Field Building for Population-Level Change: How funders and practitioners can increase the odds of success.” 

The reports attempt to address the “lack of shared understanding about what it takes to advance fields and mismatches between fields needs and common philanthropic practices.” Both contain valuable insights at a time when many foundations are deep in new strategic planning processes and so many organizations are striving to increase their impact.

Don’t miss Trabian Shorters

I’m so excited to share that Trabian Shorters, CEO and Founder of BMe Community, has been supported by Northern California Grantmakers to offer a free workshop for our nonprofit and philanthropic communities. Trabian will be talking about the power of narrative frames and how to use that power in this time of crisis. Trabian has opened my eyes and heart and, as a result, I have transformed the way I write, speak and think about the communities we aim to help. Please join me in attending, and then get in touch so we can talk about what we’ve learned. To register for this free event click here.

Shark Month: Covid-19 Edition

The amazing Amanda Ripley earned my undying respect with her research, “Complicating the Narratives,” — about how journalists can help bridge divides by asking questions as mediators in high conflict zones have learned to do. Her newest piece, “How to cover uncertainty and statistics in a pandemic, without making things worse,” is equally important. She writes, “If you are going to report the number of deaths, you should report the number of lives saved. Why? Because one shows the threat, and the other shows our control over the threat. Millions of human beings are working on managing this threat, including nurses, scientists, doctors and sick people and their families. Where is their scoreboard? This is not about making people feel good or minimizing the seriousness of this threat. It’s about telling the truth.” Her work is always so measured, thoughtful and so important.

“Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

I’m obsessed with “Whitman, Alabama,” a sensational project from AL.com that uses documentary and poetry to reveal the threads that tie us together—as people, as states, and as a nation. For two years, filmmaker Jennifer Crandall crisscrossed Alabama, inviting people to look into a camera and share a part of themselves through the words of Walt Whitman. Start with verses 39 and 37 and experience for yourself the beauty of this extraordinary project.

Beautiful News

Happy to share an uplifting project: Beautiful News Daily is a collection of good news, positive trends, uplifting statistics and facts — all beautifully visualized by Information is Beautiful. Every day for a year there will be a new graphic celebrating trends and developments that are typically unreported in the headline news. As the site says, “Amazing things are happening in the world, thanks to human ingenuity, endeavour and collaboration.”

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.