Delivering Infinite Book Shelves (DIBS) for Kids is a dynamic nonprofit providing software that helps teachers find age-appropriate books and send them home with their students.
And just like that, 2020 is here and so is a brand-new decade. We’ve spent time examining the major philanthropy trends and shifts that we witnessed in the last decade, and now, it’s time to look forward. Our CEO, Madeline Duva, recently shared with Forbes the key trends that will shape philanthropy in 2020 and on. We want to share these same insights directly with our Fluxx readers. See below for the top trends that will shape philanthropy in the coming years and help foundations and nonprofits alike as they work to plan for the future of their organizations.
We’ve always considered ourselves more than a tech company. Sure, we provide the best in class software that powers giving and impact – helping foundations grant easier, collaborate better with their grantees and drive more change – but Fluxx also believes in building a strong community of purpose-driven individuals. In the past, we’ve gathered this community once a year for Fluxxcon, our user conference held in San Francisco. But a single conference isn’t always convenient or accessible for all of our users; especially our international clients.
Maybe it’s just us, but 2020 is ushering in a sense of excitement and finality. Another decade is coming to a close, leaving many of us to reflect upon the last 10 years, marvel at the changes we’ve seen, and ponder what’s to come. In the last decade we’ve witnessed everything from the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement, increasing concern for climate change and increasing natural disasters, and on a lighter note: iPhones four through 11. Philanthropy has experienced sweeping changes as well. The buzzwords of the early 2010s are long gone, replaced by the priorities we see today.
2019 was a busy year at Fluxx. We announced new partnerships, unveiled new products, volunteered (a lot), moved offices, and sponsored some killer events. Throughout all the hard work, there was play and a feeling of renewed vigor and appreciation for our work. We’re proud to contribute to the growing Tech For Good space and to support increased collaboration for our funders and grantees.
Say it with us, Giving Tuesday is the best thing to happen to Thanksgiving since the Thanksgiving Day Parade became televised. And this year, we’re planning to pay it forward in three major ways. So keep reading to learn more about where you can find our team this Giving Tuesday!
Next year is fast approaching and with it, some major political and social movements. In the same year, U.S. citizens will hit the polls to choose our next president we will all be asked to opt into the 24th census. Even without it being an election year, the census would have been politically charged. We all remember the controversy and back and forth that ensued when the administration tried to slip a citizenship question into the census.
If you needed another reason to value our industry, know this: Philanthropy is one of the largest economic engines in the U.S. – employing millions of citizens, about one in 10 in the private workforce. And like any other titan, it takes the right tools and resources to drive change and propel impact at a competitive pace.
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion of gender and women’s issues in society and in philanthropy. In fact many foundations are working earnestly to support gender, equity, and inclusion practices and causes – both internally and with their grantmaking. But as a recent study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Women & Girls Index: Measuring Giving to Women’s and Girls’ Causes shows, there is still more opportunity for us to work to champion these causes.
Philanthropy continues to evolve and expand each day. As funder and nonprofit technology rapidly advances to further connect and enable change, so are new industries pushing increasing amounts of funds towards diverse causes across the globe. In fact, aspects of our society that previously rarely felt the positive effects of grantmaking are now experiencing the benefits for themselves.
The philanthropy industry isn’t touted as fast-paced. It’s a fractured network that’s existed for thousands of years – supporting various societies throughout history. But philanthropy is changing as a swell of funding collaboratives knit together worldwide. As we continue to make strides towards improving industry collaboration, foundations are walking the talk and collaborating more deeply with each other to affect years-long (sometimes even permanent) change. They’re joining forces, pooling funds, forming important relationships throughout the sector – all in the name of wider and more immediate impact.
We are thrilled to announce the creation of our Preferred Partner Program! These partners of Fluxx are highly trained and ready to help bring success to your organization by making sure you get the most out of your Fluxx solution.
The Pinkerton Foundation does things a little differently than your average grantmaker. Because the foundation localizes their work and is dedicated to – “improving the lives of young people in poor neighborhoods throughout New York City by helping them develop the skills, self-reliance and strong values necessary to live up to their full potential” – they prioritize interacting with their grantees with regular site visits, and needed a platform that would free up valuable time for these face-to-face interactions.
Most people think of philanthropy as a niche, feel-good space supported by simple donations rather than the massive global market that it is. A market that continues to affect policy and change millions of lives worldwide. The nonprofit space currently encompasses an impressive 2.1 percent of the total U.S. GDP, mobilizing over 1.5 million nonprofit and funder organizations, and $410 billion of investments in the social sector.
Communication is the backbone of philanthropy. The philanthropy industry depends on trustworthy relationships in order to accomplish bigs asks and far-reaching goals that often involve community input, public support, and teamwork. It’s no secret that foundations often fund the same nonprofits and causes again and again – especially if you have years-long initiatives planned with an organization. It’s natural to turn to what’s familiar and foster already harmonious relationships.
At Fluxx, we’re fortunate to have some truly amazing organizations as clients. The Blue Shield of California Foundation is one of them. Its mission is to “build lasting and equitable solutions that make California the healthiest state and end domestic violence.” The Foundation does this through countless initiatives; some short and timely, some far-reaching such as the first ever Gender Justice Fund – a $10 million collaborative launched with the aim to change culture and advance gender justice. Their work serves a shining example of what 21st Century philanthropy can (and should) look like.
August 17th is National Nonprofit Day – a day of acknowledgment established so that people may take a moment to appreciate the incredible impact that nonprofits have around the world. Not only are nonprofits the premier drivers of social good, but they’re also a huge benefit to our economy, accounting for millions of employees and volunteers, and countless funds being poured back into communities.
Many of you know all about it but for those of you who don’t, I’d like to introduce you to a fantastic asset for Fluxx Grantmaker clients… the Fluxx Grantmaker Community. The community is an online resource where Fluxx Grantmaker users can interact and share, explore ideas, learn best practices and more from one another. The Grantmaker Community is an important part of our commitment to building not just great grants management solutions, but also a community of philanthropists that connect with and learn from each other on multiple levels.
Philanthropy (like any industry) can get swept up in movements and trends. Some trends are buzzy but quickly flow through our cultural rivers, leaving little trace of their impact or original intent. But we’re here to talk about a growing movement that we hope wholeheartedly is here to stay. It’s the practice of bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and trainings into the office, and ingraining them into the work culture. It’s a practice we see our clients (both foundations and nonprofits) doing more each year and something we see far less often in the tech industry. This needs to change.
The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) isn’t your typical grantmaking organization. They’re an organization with close government affiliations that supports the FDA by providing grants to local health departments and other agencies, so that those teams can provide up-to-date food safety training, education, and local food safety checks. The program gives grants ranging from $500 to $50,000 towards food safety jurisdictions across the country.
Giving USA may have said it best in their press release for the latest 2019 report: it was a “complex year for charitable giving.” Philanthropists across the country immediately pounced on that language (and the data that followed), and soon the think pieces began to spread. Individual giving was down, other giving was up. And most importantly, the need for giving certainly hasn't diminished but influences like tax law changes and political and economic uncertainty are reshaping giving trends.
Summer break is here for the Supreme Court, but just before the nine justices hung up their robes they passed the hotly contested and anticipated 2020 census ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that requiring a citizenship question on the 2020 census does, in fact, violate minority rights, and therefore rejected the lawsuit – punting it back to a federal court in Maryland. Arguments in favor of this ruling stated that requiring individuals to mark whether or not they were a U.S. citizen, could potentially deter many from filling in the census, and leave countless communities without proper funding and political representation.
We’ve written about this before but it bears repeating: collaboration is critical to the success of philanthropy. Not only is collaboration a core pillar of the philanthropic space – but true collaboration – the kind we see when our clients pool their grants to tackle a growing and serious issue, can result in life-changing impact.
There’s no daily grind quite like that of nonprofit fundraising. While working at a nonprofit is intrinsically rewarding in countless ways, most industry veterans can recount horror stories of months (or even years) where their nonprofit was barely hanging on and that next grant or big donation meant the difference between keeping the lights on or closing down.
Partnerships are the backbone of philanthropy. Working together as a collaborative community to facilitate connection and streamline operations makes the entire philanthropic ecosystem thrive. That’s why we’re so pleased to announce we are partnering with Neon One to combine the benefits of our tech for good offerings and provide unparalleled services for all our valued clients.
They say admitting you have a problem is the first step. But once your foundation admits that your current grants management system is more hindrance than help, you’re suddenly left with the overwhelming project of figuring out how to choose the right system that will not only meet your needs today, but also scale with you into the future.
After eight gripping seasons Game of Thrones is officially over. It concluded with plenty of fanfare, internet grumblings, and dismay. And whether or not you’re a superfan of the show, or only watched a single episode, a key truth stood out in one of the final scenes that – believe it or not – applies directly to our work in philanthropy. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Better together – that’s what makes philanthropy work. This rallying cry rings true across our industry, wherein collaboration and the collective mindset can help us to overcome the challenges that arise in your daily work. This can take the form of capacity issues, scale and sustainability, knowledge sharing... or likely the (very) complex nature of the issue area you’re tackling.
Trust is rarely given freely - it’s earned. This is a lesson for-profit organizations often learn the hard way when a PR disaster strikes. Nonprofits, on the other hand, can face an uphill battle from the get-go. Whether we like it or not, the philanthropic industry is judged on measures that don’t always fit their models or reflect their impact. And, when your organization’s entire existence depends on fundraising, trust is even more critical. As new research from GuideStar reaffirms, transparency plays a major role in building trust with donors and constituents: “Donors give more to transparent nonprofits and transparent organizations tend to be stronger organizations.” So exhibiting transparency is a critical way to demonstrate trustworthiness from the start, encourage the donations you need, and keep your mission moving forward.
Earth Day is a double-edged sword in the philanthropy space. On the one hand, it’s a time to celebrate and honor our planet and the incredible ecosystems it houses. On the other hand, it’s a sobering time to reflect on the continuously mounting work we all need to do – collectively – to save our environment. Each one of us has a unique role to play and we may find ourselves drawn to one struggle (renewable energy, clean water, endangered species, etc.) more than another. At Fluxx, we enable a variety of giving strategies through our Grantmaker solution, two of which we will examine today. But no matter what the focus, Earth Day is about coming together to spread awareness and help save our planet!
The key to lasting impact is the ability to scale and adapt. When you’re able to share, reproduce, and generate impact beyond your original reach – everyone benefits! A key way to truly scale is with technology. A robust grants management platform brings with it automation and efficiency – saving foundations from having to overhire in order to meet their needs or overburden their current employees. Not to mention how much easier tax season becomes when data is centralized, safe, and easily referenceable.
There’s a bottoms-up practice that can greatly improve our philanthropic ecosystem. It’s the practice of building capacity from the ground up, starting with nonprofits. When grantees are equipped with the kind of tools and technologies that foundations can access and have the budget for, their important work can become easier, more collaborative, data-driven, and transparent.
A good story takes on many forms in the digital age. It can be an iconic image (worth 1,000 words they say), a catchy tagline, video, article, and more. Regardless of where you get your content – everything boils down to a good hook and powerful storytelling. For nonprofits this is especially important. The campaigns and movements that have skyrocketed to viral fame in recent years have also led to major funding and serious impact.
It’s no secret that the tech industry has a diversity issue. As CNET’s Erin Carson reports, “the number of women and minorities at technology firms has changed little. Sometimes the numbers stay flat: From 2016 to 2017 Apple stayed at 32 percent women. Sometimes they fall backward: In 2016, Microsoft lost a percentage point.”
There’s an indisputable link between charitable giving and the social norms that guide our behavior. People are more likely to engage in giving when others do so as well.
The PEAK 2019 Annual Conference is next week, and so is the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTEN)! We’re thrilled to be exhibiting at both events this year and there's plenty of exciting ways for you to connect with us. See below for details about each event, the solutions we plan to show you, and the fun giveaways we will be offering!
For the past 110 years, March 8th has been a time to assemble and work toward equality on International Women’s Day (IWD). And while IWD is historically a time for women to make their voices heard and encourage a worldwide dialogue – this year’s #BalanceforBetter theme is a rallying cry for all people and organizations to focus on equality rather than inequality.
We’re thrilled to announce that Fluxx is ranked fifth on Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2019, in the data science category!
The list honors the businesses making the most profound impact on both industry and culture, showcasing a variety of ways to thrive in today’s volatile world. This is our second year taking home a Fast Company award. Last year we ranked in the nonprofit category for our innovative approach to redesigning the grantseekeing process with Fluxx Grantseeker.
2018 was a landmark year for Fluxx. We’re pleased to announce that over the previous 12 months, we increased the number of grants funded on our platform by 124 percent, facilitated $7.2 billion in total funding, and partnered with 52 new foundation clients for grants management, including leaders such as Forefront, The G. Harold & Leila Y. Mathers Foundation, Jewish Voice Ministries International, and many more.
Philanthropy is a cooperative market. Its constituents work to unite funds and policies in order to meet common economic, social, and cultural needs in our ever-changing social sector. If armed with an equal voice, both the givers and doers can inform the collective and create the most sustainable and impactful solutions to solve human problems.
Charity Navigator ranks nonprofits based on their overhead ratio (as in the amount of money spent on operations versus the mission), but as a recent study from North Carolina State University shows, a low overhead ratio is not always an effective way to measure a nonprofit's efficiency. Accordingly, funders, volunteers, and the general public often have the pervasive idea that all of a nonprofits funds should flow directly to the cause. This can lead to the dreaded Starvation Cycle: A state in which a nonprofit consistently keeps overhead costs so low that it impedes their current and future impact potential.
We know vital missions require the best tools. We also know that measuring and sharing impact can be challenging, yet it’s the most important barometer that foundations and nonprofits have for their work. Impact is why we launched the Fluxx Grantseeker platform back in 2017. We believe that nonprofits should have access to the same quality platform as foundations, so they too can streamline operations, truly “see” their data, lessen administrative burden, deepen connections and increase impact.
There’s no denying that the digital era has dramatically changed giving. It’s never been easier for individuals to donate (now at the click of a button), crowdfund for a good cause, and even contribute a dollar or two on their way through a grocery store checkout. And while it’s critical that your charity is set up to make giving easy, that doesn’t solve for the most nagging problem nonprofits face: discoverability.
This blog is part one of a four-part series that describes how we see the philanthropic industry evolving into a more connected and effective ecosystem – and how Fluxx is supporting and encouraging that evolution with our platform for democratizing philanthropy.
The year is officially coming to a close. To commemorate 2018, we wanted to aggregate some of our top blog posts! These pieces sparked conversations, shone a light on impactful work from our clients, and discussed the key trends and technology that stand to shape philanthropy in the coming years.
Nonprofits (along with the foundations that fund them) make up a significant portion of the U.S. economy. In fact, in 2014, nonprofits contributed $937.7 billion to the U.S. economy, the equivalent of 5.4 percent of our nation’s GDP. Yet some foundations and nonprofits still face pushback when looking to invest in operations to provide their essential services.
But like any for-profit organization, foundations and nonprofits will greatly benefit from developing the right technology plan in order to forecast for the new year. The same mechanisms that significantly improve the efficiency and mobility of for-profit giants are just as important for a foundation looking to better measure impact, streamline grants processes, and efficiently communicate with stakeholders. The right technology provides operational improvements that enables your team to elevate their grantmaking – freeing up time to further develop grantee relationships.
So looking ahead into the new year, how is your 2019 technology plan coming along? If sitting down to assess your current strategy and plan for the future sounds daunting, then our technology guide can help. After all, having a plan is the best way to demonstrate why an investment in the right technology (that aligns with your foundation’s mission) is critical.
The Foundation’s Guide to a Must Have Technology Plan was designed to help you develop an ideal strategic technology plan for your foundation. Read this guide to learn:
How to define a technology strategy that is suitable for your organization
How to choose the right technology
How to train and implement your strategy
Examples from other foundations who have implemented robust technology strategies
We know December is a busy month for foundations, but it’s also a perfect time to reflect on organizational successes and potential inefficiencies. Let us help you prepare for the future.
Program-related investments (PRIs) are THE hot topic right now. Foundations from coast to coast are deploying PRI programs – enabling their teams to expand beyond traditional grantmaking, and ultimately empowering nonprofits and for-profits to work with these foundations in new ways.
At Fluxx we take giving back seriously. It’s part of our mission and something our entire office embraces as a team. And while Giving Tuesday is just one component of our philanthropic work – we certainly get into the spirit!
Not only does the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) throw a great conference, but their annual survey continuously provides insightful data into the growing importance of technology in the philanthropic space. This year approximately 200 foundations responded to the 2018 State of Philanthropy Tech – weighing in on everything from the perception of technology, diversity equity and inclusion practices, security breaches, and the tools foundations are coming to rely upon to protect their information and grow their communities. Naturally as a SaaS provider ourselves, we’re deeply curious about how foundations perceive technology and IT, especially as they relate to securing sensitive data – and three key statistics stood out the most.
Pledge 1% is a movement, a commitment, and a promise – and we are humbled to be a part of it. It allows us to expand on what we’ve already been doing: donating our time, our equity, and our product. The community is made up of incredible companies all working toward “building a movement in corporate philanthropy.” The likes of Salesforce, Box, Atlassian, Splunk, Twilio, Yelp, TechCrunch, and many more have joined.
Last month we shared our evolving vision for Fluxx: A philanthropy platform enabling funding and impact for organizations who fund change, and those who carry it out on the ground. Today we’re proud to take a step closer towards that vision through a collaboration with Microsoft’s Tech for Social Impact initiative.
Today we are thrilled to announce that Jill Richards joined Fluxx as our new Chief Marketing Officer. Richards has a proven track record for growing dynamic technology startups. At Fluxx, she plans to support our vision for connected philanthropy – expanding our grant management software platform into a global network.
At Fluxxcon this year we were again inspired by how incredibly powerful it is to have so many of our customers gathered in one place. We’re thankful to be part of a community that helps so many, and is committed enough to fly grants managers from all over the U.S., and from as far away as India and New Zealand to attend our conference in San Francisco to share ideas. We’re lucky to have clients that are visionaries in their spaces too – people who are forever committed to finding new ways to innovate and improve the work they do.
Each year we look forward to the annual TAG conference – it truly is the top event to explore philanthropic trends and technology. Previous years have focused on data and the impact of giving. This year, the theme is technology innovation – a perfect theme for us! We are excited to have two speaking sessions where we’ll share our vision for connecting givers and doers, the innovations we built, and what we have planned for the future. And, of course we’ll be giving product peeks and sponsoring a happy hour!
Today at Fluxxcon we announced some exciting new product features which enhance Fluxx’s ability to facilitate true collaboration between givers and doers.
Today, I for the future at Fluxxcon: A platform for connected philanthropy, through which those who fund change, and those who carry it out on the ground, can find each other and work together. Connected philanthropy will get the right money to the right people at the right time.
Grant management and grant approval processes vary depending on a foundation's focus (think government, medical research, or social and societal needs) and their grantees. But one thing is certain: everyone wants to ease the burden of the grants process – making a once arduous task quick and efficient for both grantees and employees alike. After all, the faster a grant is dispersed to enact real change, the better for everyone.
Fluxx’s Vice President of Strategic Development, Dan Schoenfeld, (formerly the Director of Grants and Impact Administration at the Knight Foundation) knows only too well that when foundations invest in the right technology they achieve drastically improved: collaboration, capacity building, and efficiency. Yet investing in new technology can often be an intimidating task even for the most experienced tech buyers.
In 2015, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund was wrestling with the same issues many foundations still struggle with today: how to maximize their impact and improve operational efficiency without further burdening grantees. The Fund – which in 2017 granted 146 grants totaling nearly $5.4 million – was searching for a cloud-based, feature-rich management platform that enabled the grants management team to streamline their day-to-day work.
Promoting diversity within your industry or workforce is an important step towards creating opportunities for your community. Yet teams often forget these efforts are more than just the right thing to do, but provide definitive, quantifiable improvements. The data is in: diverse teams also deliver better results. And nowhere is this more important than the giving space, a space that aims to support disenfranchised communities, and therefore should be representing said communities on their own teams.
Our user conference, Fluxxcon, is fast approaching. Taking place on October 9th - 11th, at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco’s Presidio neighborhood, tickets for Fluxxcon are nearly sold out, so act now if you want to join us!
Photo by Ingrid Damiani for the Jesse Ball duPont Center
Here at Fluxx we work with both funders and grantees, giving us a unique insight into just how much money is invested in the philanthropic sector. Last year alone, $5.2 billion moved through our platform in the form of grants. This money went from foundations straight to the trusted nonprofits they fund, who then affected meaningful change across communities worldwide.
This year’s BoxWorks conference is sure to be impactful and we’re excited to share that Fluxx CEO, Madeline Duva, is appearing on a panel on August 30th, 2pm, at the Moscone Center.
A new generation is redefining social sector leadership with a work style that maximizes efficiency through collaboration. And you don’t have to be a millennial to harness the power of information sharing.
Here are three ways to access your foundation's valuable internal resources by simply communicating with colleagues:
Recently, Fluxx Co-founder and Chief Development Officer, Kerrin Mitchell, and Fluxx Chief Evangelist, Dan Schoenfeld, delivered an illuminating webinar: 4 Ways in Which Technology is Changing Grantmaking. The webinar brought context to key trends we’re seeing in philanthropy—specifically how improved technology has resulted in optimization and success for both foundations and nonprofits.
As I look back on the growth and changes we’ve experienced to date in 2018 here at Fluxx, I’m reminded that it’s happened against the backdrop of exciting changes in philanthropy overall. It’s a remarkable time for anyone focused on giving and change-making. There was a record-breaking $410 billion in giving in the US last year, with an important shift in contribution sources, as contributions to DAFs (donor-advised funds) exploded.
The Giving USA annual report on the state of philanthropy, which was released last month, reveals that Americans are giving more than ever (including when measured using inflation-adjusted dollars): $410 billion in 2017. (From 2007 through 2017, giving went up $99 billion in current dollars.) As in previous years, the types of organizations that received that money were mostly religious ($127 billion) and educational ($59 billion). Meanwhile, donations to foundations were up 15.5% and, of all types of recipient, foundations saw the highest growth rate over two years.
Seeing the positive impact of your organization’s grants can be deeply rewarding, yet we all know that the processes involved in grantmaking itself are often downright tedious and cumbersome—for both the grantmakers and the nonprofits they serve. There is a major role for technology to play in order to break down common administrative boundaries as well as increase capacity and collaboration.
Grantee reports are essential for foundations, helping determine disbursements and grants. Reporting is also a vital part of making grants and a fantastic opportunity for grantees to share advancement with grantmakers. But done inefficiently, it can be a tedious task that contributes little to grantmaker or grantee.
Done right, reporting can be a meaningful exchange of data and stories as well as a tremendous opportunity for growth for both grantees and grant makers.
Popular online magazine Slate recently released a new series about philanthropy. With The Slate 90, the journal will start ranking the largest American nonprofits by revenue, organized according to nine categories ranging from the arts to health. Its goal is to increase scrutiny of the growing philanthropic sector and provide what it calls “a more robust and useful portrait of the tax-free economy” and “the nonprofit-industrial complex” in particular. This snapshot of US philanthropy, based on 2015 data, shows the contemporary giving landscape.
|Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation|
The latest wave of donors is changing philanthropy as we know it. Along the way, younger philanthropists are also transforming how foundations work, and specifically creating a need for collaboration through technology.
That was the perspective of the panelists at Fluxx’s sixth annual philanthropic speaker series, A New Age in Philanthropic Giving, held earlier this year at the Ford Foundation in Manhattan. The panel, led by Sam Caplan, now CIO of the Walton Family Foundation, included Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation; Nick Tedesco, senior philanthropic advisor at J.P. Morgan; and David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy and author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age.
Over the past couple of years, we've seen a number of major trends that are shifting the traditional models of giving and philanthropy, not least of which is greater interest in giving, and increasing overall value in the amount of dollar amounts being donated.
The 2018 Peak Grantmaking conference just wrapped up, and what a fantastic time we had connecting with old friends and making new ones. So many members of the Fluxx family come to Peak every year in search of new skills, ideas, and fellowship, and this year was highly successful on all fronts.
The Fluxx Support team is on a mission. Simply put, we want to make as many Fluxx customers as possible, as happy as possible. This uncomplicated premise drives everything team members strive for on a daily basis.
That’s why I’m so proud to announce that our team has been named a finalist for the 12th annual Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service. We could not be more excited.
For foundations big and small, grants management software not only streamlines your operations, but can also give you a new perspective on your organization's work. From revealing insights through data to automating processes to improving operational transparency, the right software can be a critical component to achieving your mission.
Lately it feels like we’re living in a golden era of technology and innovation. In the past few years we’ve seen several technologies emerge to make a major impact in our lives: the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and now blockchain.
The most basic job description of a CFO is to manage an organization’s finances. But the simplicity of this description belies the complexity of the role, especially when it comes to understanding day-to-day responsibilities or big-picture goals at a charitable foundation.
Despite – or perhaps, because of – the unexpected results of the 2016 presidential election, giving trends for last year were overwhelmingly positive. According to Giving USA, charitable donations increased yet again, topping $390 billion in 2016.
This post was originally published on the PEAK Grantmaking blog in November, 2017.
It’s inevitable: at the end of every grant cycle, a final report provides a record of grantee successes, challenges, and monies spent. But how often does the final report become a meaningful mechanism for further reflection or change?
As a program manager and subject expert, you’ve always believed in the importance of capturing information and stories that articulate the impact of your work. Until recently, however, you may not have had the time, resources, or expertise to take your data practices to the next level.
Chances are, if you began your career as a grants manager 10 or 15 years ago, you didn’t consider yourself a tech pro, or a data wizard. You probably used a computer every day. And you became adept at office applications like Excel and Word. But still, there probably was a whole lot of paper in your life.
How times have changed.
The past few months have been horrific for so many, from the hurricanes in Florida, Houston, Puerto Rico, and across the Caribbean, to the earthquakes in Mexico and the recent North Bay fires right here in California. The devastation is widespread but has also hit very close to home, and the need to respond – to give what we can – grows daily.
Although the environmental sector only accounts for 3 percent of total giving in the U.S., environmental issues, particularly climate change, remain among the most pressing and intractable problems of our time.
For foundations, cloud-based grants management software has evolved rapidly since its relatively recent introduction. Cloud-based systems have quickly become more common than local server systems, providing both casual and tech-savvy users with increased access to the data they need.
During every fundraising event I helped to organize for 826 Boston, a literacy nonprofit based in Roxbury, MA, the lights dimmed and we hit play on our latest video.
Despite budget constraints, investing in multimedia storytelling is more important than ever for nonprofit success – and we can help you make the case for allocating more resources to communications strategies that work.
It's vitally important that foundations and nonprofits engage and collaborate in a healthy two-way relationship to bring about the change they both seek. But there is often a wide disconnect between how funders and grantees go about their work.
As a grants manager, you’ve always understood the importance of data, even if you don’t always consider yourself a tech guru. As the quarterback of the grantmaking process, you regularly collect critical pieces of information and synthesize it for future use. You’ve always known you needed data. But until recently, deep dives into the world of data were rarely expected from you due to a perceived lack of expertise, time, or mandate from leadership.
Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm when it made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas Friday night, has paralyzed much of the state and left thousands displaced. One hundred and thirty mile-per-hour-winds knocked down trees and power lines, generally wreaking havoc across the region.
Successful grantseeking operations are as much about managing a wealth of information as they are about writing a stand-out proposal. From prospective funders to grant cycle deadlines, there’s plenty to track as you move grants through the pipeline.
Measuring impact is challenging. There’s no two ways about it. Some funders skip important steps in development while others fail to pay enough attention to their grantees’ capacity or preferences when designing and implementing evaluations. What’s more, the variety of approaches to the work across the sector constrains the way organizations assess and even define impact.
This post first appeared in the Blue Shield of California Foundation blog. Thank you to Gywyneth for sharing her puppies (pictured above) with us!
As any good grant writer knows, our job involves far more than writing proposals. There’s program staff to interview, data to track, and plenty of deadlines to organize – smack dab in the middle of a busy nonprofit fundraising year.
Americans gave nearly $400 billion to charitable organizations and individuals last year – to make education work better for our children, put food on the tables of our most vulnerable, and to create safer and healthier neighborhoods and communities for everyone, to name only a few of the causes supported by philanthropic giving in 2016.
Brand ambassadorship is the new wave taking over marketing. Let's face it, the media-savvy among us harbor a healthy skepticism of marketing pitches. But we're much more receptive to the opinions of our own friends, or friends of friends. When we see the passion in others, it's contagious. It drives us to action.
Depending on the requirements of your funder, you’ll most likely have to file a detailed report about your financials, along with an evaluation of the funded program. Although grant reporting can be a valuable tool for growth, this crucial component of the funding cycle often causes sticking points for both nonprofits and funders.
You spent hours upon hours researching, preparing, and writing what your team knows is the perfect grant proposal — a proposal that meets each one of the foundation’s guidelines. Why wouldn’t it accept your proposal after all your hard work? But when you read on, your heart sinks.
Fundraising and donations are key components of any nonprofit’s development plan, but those strategies alone often won’t cover everything your organization wants to accomplish. That’s where grants come in.
Whether you’re a brand new nonprofit or your development team is growing fast, the pressures of grant writing mean development staff members nearly always feel the pinch of their deadlines.
By establishing best practices for proposal writing, you’ll not only improve the success rate of your grant proposals, but you’ll also establish teamwork norms that positively impact your entire staff. Think better prospecting, healthier relationships with donors and board members, and open communication between program and development staff. (Sounds nice, right?)
While it’s true that some grants come with strings attached, diversifying your nonprofit income with awards from private, corporate, or government-funded foundations can help you build a more sustainable fundraising strategy for your organization.
By joining forces in a coordinated effort, grantmakers, grantees, communities, and other stakeholders passionate about similar issues have the potential to create meaningful and lasting impact. This kind of collective action approach has the potential to address the most pressing and complex societal challenges of our time.
But what exactly is collective action? And why should you care? First: the why.
Undoubtedly, your foundation is equipped with the staff, tools, and expertise to make strategic grants, and maximize your impact. However, sometimes it really helps to bring in some outside assistance – especially when it comes to technology. Maybe you need help with selection and implementation, cloud computing and security, or CRM customization. Hiring a tech consultant allows you to get ahead of your tech to-do list and free up your time to work toward your mission.
We are right in the middle of the 2017 Ignite! Grantmaker Summit and I couldn’t be more energized and inspired. It is great to see so many good people gathered in one place, learning new skills and gaining a renewed focus on their missions.
Nonprofits are often forced into a “grantseekers dilemma.” For example, sometimes an organization applies for a grant that requires a certain kind of capacity, knowing they don’t have it, but hoping that with funding they can obtain it. It’s a lose-lose, for both funder and grantseeker, and reveals the critical importance of capacity building grants for effective nonprofits.
Although reporting can be a great opportunity to share the advancement of an organization’s work, the grantee report is at risk of becoming nothing more than a tedious task that contributes little value to you or your grantee.
Instead of being used as a launching pad for iteration and improvement, these reports too often go unread or underutilized.
It’s time to reframe the future of grantee reporting.
Dear Fluxx Community,
In 2011, we founded Fluxx based on the belief that if we could make philanthropy’s job easier we could do immense good in the world. And based on the work you do, day in and day out, I think we’re well on our way to making that happen. We're ready to do more.
When Give OUT Day was founded in 2013, it rose out of a sense of urgency and acute need. Its mission – to bring the LGBTQ community’s nonprofits and allies together across the country on a single day dedicated to giving – remains as critical today as it was five years ago.
Foundations and other nonprofit organizations are a powerful force of good in the world, but without a steady backbone of leadership and guidance from high-quality board members, they risk losing focus and becoming far less effective.
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive game plan for grantmakers. “The how of grantmaking,” as PEAK Grantmaking calls it, is many times a learn-on-the-fly endeavor, with systems, processes, and best practices handed down from one grants manager or program officer to the next. But sometimes best practices get lost in translation or dropped altogether.
That’s why we’ve gathered what we feel represents the best practices that are common among all effective grantmakers. And while it is true that your foundation has a unique way of managing the grantmaking process, we’ve uncovered tribal knowledge – broken down into three key steps – that you can employ to improve your efficiency and effectiveness.
America is more generous than ever before, according to the 2016 Giving USA report. Specifically, corporate giving exceeded $18 billion, a 3.9 percent increase from 2014. And as giving continues to grow as a personal value, more people are seeking out employers that share the desire to give back. The question becomes, what corporate giving strategy is right for your company?
As we finish up yet another informative and exciting GMN ... err … PEAK Grantmaking conference in Hollywood and head back to our day jobs, I’m left reflecting on my experiences talking to and learning from a crowd of really smart people, committed to solving some really important issues in society.
It’s no secret that grantmakers continue to struggle with how to approach evaluation and create a path towards more meaningful and informative impact measurement. With good reason! This is tough work.
International Women’s Day is not only a celebration of our collective progress and powerful voices as women, but it is also a call to “be bold for change.” It inspires us to continue open and honest dialogues about our vision for a truly global community, to honor where divisions require mending, and to be vigilant to the opportunities ahead.
Perhaps more than ever before, philanthropy has a critical role to play to make this vision a reality.
There are many misconceptions that obfuscate the impact evaluation landscape, leaving many foundations feeling disempowered and paralyzed. By busting a few of these myths, we hope to clear the way for grantmakers to shake that paralysis and take the first steps on a meaningful impact evaluation journey.
Last week, two powerhouse philanthropic data conferences merged under the Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) and Social Innovation Review (SSIR) umbrella. The two-day Data on Purpose / Do Good Data conference brought together academics, practitioners, and data experts from across the for- and nonprofit sectors to discuss data issues in a civil society, including various sessions on the effective and ethical use of data, creating a data culture, and collaborations around data. I came away with a new understanding of philanthropy's newest dilemma.
Before the age of computers, grantmakers pored over scads of paper applications during a review process that required a legion of folders and file cabinets. Countless hours were spent using brainpower on mundane but critical tasks.
Foundations are understandably tight-lipped about cyberattacks. Because of the sensitive nature of the breached data and fear that broadcasting a hack might invite more attacks, it’s not often that we hear about cybersecurity threats in philanthropy. But it can happen to anyone, anywhere — and it happens more than you might think.
The ultimate goal of any foundation is to create change. And program officers play a critical role in making that happen. But the program officer’s job is challenging. Not only must they be experts in their funding areas, but they also serve as relationship builders and key decision makers within their foundations.
This post first appeared on The Center for Effective Philanthropy blog.
The central paradox of The Future of Foundation Philanthropy can be found in one fact: while two out of three foundation CEOs think it’s possible for foundations to make a significant difference in the world, only about one out of every eight of us feel we actually are making such a difference. What’s behind this “aspiration gap,” as it has been called by The Bridgespan Group? I think it is because we are squandering the biggest advantage foundation executives have: we are free to fail.
The only way to get where you want to go is to know where you’ve been. Many of the prominent themes in philanthropy from 2016 — some perennial “evergreens,” others born of a new political landscape — demand our attention now more than ever.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the five most critical ideas of 2016 and how they’ll influence philanthropy in the coming year and beyond.
We get it. It’s hard not to treat organizational culture as an afterthought. The nuts and bolts of grantmaking come first at your foundation. Grantmaking, after all, is the primary way foundations create positive change in the world.
But we think culture matters. And here’s why.
More Than Words: Key Takeaways from J.P. Morgan and the “How” of Measurement and Impact in Philanthropy
That’s why a recent event hosted by The Philanthropy Centre at J.P Morgan in San Francisco was such a breath of fresh air. The gathering, How to Maximize Philanthropic Impact, was squarely focused on ensuring that the ideas presented there moved beyond just “talk.”
Grantmaking organizations manage billions of dollars of funding every year. The importance of maximizing the power of technology can’t be underestimated. Remarkably, most foundations lack a strategic technology plan that aligns with their mission, initiatives, and foundationwide strategy — even though it’s vital to reaching their goals.
In fact, according to a 2014 Technology Affinity Group (TAG) survey, a mere 23 percent of respondents said they have a technology plan that has been updated within the past two years. An additional 15 percent said they have a plan, but it hasn’t been updated, which means it isn’t keeping up with rapidly advancing technology. The most troubling statistic is the 62 percent of respondents who don't have a technology plan at all.
What does it mean to give?
For such a small word, it is incredibly powerful. It’s a word we put a lot of thought into around here.
That’s why we’re thrilled to participate this year in the unifying day of giving that is #GivingTuesday – a day that unites charities, corporations, small businesses, and individuals from across the globe to show that collectively we can leave the world a better place than we found it.
A day of unity is just what we need right now.
There is a story about Arkansas that is widely known by those who live and work there. It’s the story of failure and acceptance of failure. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) believes the time has come to switch that narrative.
But telling a new story of Arkansas hasn’t come without its challenges.
David Goodman participated on the Vendor Plenary Panel at the 2016 Technology Affinity Group (TAG) annual conference, where he first discussed his views on data, evaluation, and the sometimes over-emphasis on "impact" in philanthropy.
While my background is in research and evaluation, I’ve spent a great deal of time working with foundations and nonprofits to build their capacity to understand and use research and evaluation. I’m very excited to be able to bring my experience to the philanthropic sector at a time when there is a growing realization that it can benefit from the expertise of researchers and evaluators from other fields or disciplines.
This is a good thing. It gets me out of bed in the morning.
Yet, as much as I am excited about the emphasis on data, measurement, and impact, there is also a part of me that wants to pause – just for a moment – to talk about the disproportionate emphasis on “impact” alone.
Philanthropy is more than just a charitable donation, with no expectation of returns. It is a desire to give in the hopes of improving the lives of all beings on earth. It is action prompted by a love for humanity. And now, more than ever, it is a source of hope.
Any time the philanthropic sector has an opportunity to learn more about each other and the work that we do, we all benefit. A perfect example is the latest report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices.
The key takeaway: The sector has limited capacity to take on meaningful evaluation. And foundations bypass developmental or formative evaluation at their own risk. Without undertaking this important work up front, capacity for evaluation practices will remain woefully inadequate.
There’s no denying it. The way we work has fundamentally changed. Our cloud-based, bring-your-own-device, collaborative workspaces – virtual and brick-and-mortar – bear very little resemblance to the foundations of even a decade ago. The technology that makes all this possible is also generating new ways for grantmakers to do their work — specifically, the ability to access and leverage data like never before.
To make the most out of this new work environment, foundations are opting into a culture of data-sharing and transparency.
Many nonprofits struggle under the weight of grantee burden. Any unnecessary hoops that grantees are forced to jump through only serve to stifle the impact that they (and their funders) seek to achieve. As a funder, any time you can minimize the amount of time, effort, and money that nonprofits spend seeking and receiving grants, you increase their capacity to focus on what they do best – their mission-related work.
First off, what does it really mean to be data-driven? And secondly, how do you get there? Two great questions I’ve thought a lot about. In fact, I asked folks from more than 100 foundations the same questions.
Several themes developed and a roadmap of proven strategies emerged.
This post first appeared on The Center for Effective Philanthropy blog.
At effective foundations, the how of grantmaking is everyone’s business.
When grantmakers think about their funding strategy, we often focus on where we will give, to what, and to whom. We think about the results we want our funding to spark or enable. But strategy is supported (or not) by operations: the way in which grantmaking programs are structured and how grants are introduced, applied for, screened, decided, made, monitored, reported upon, assessed, and learned from. These funder practices are what we call “the how.”
Philanthropy is changing. A new guard of social sector leadership is establishing a new way of working that maximizes impact and efficiency by promoting technology, transparency, and willingness to learn.
The key to this new way of thinking is collaboration — and this goes beyond the ease with which technology allows us to convene, share, and work together. And it transcends age: You don’t have to be a Millennial to understand the power of information sharing.
The role of grants manager has evolved in recent years from primarily executing the foundation’s overall grant efforts to managing critical data that have the power to make a much broader impact across the organization.
But are you – a grants manager – ready to be your foundation’s data expert?
Whether you call it “all hands on deck” or “all oars in the water,” it has always made sense to me that we employ all the tools at our disposal to stanch the flow of intractable problems we face as a society.
Adriana Jimenez is grants manager at the Surdna Foundation and also serves on the board of directors of the Grants Managers Network. This post was first published on Transparency Talk, a project of the Foundation Center.
The Panama Canal expansion project opened last June following several delays and controversies. It was a risky bet with promising outcomes.
While the expansion aimed to improve global trade by doubling the canal’s capacity, it now runs the risk of failure from faulty design. The project was wrought with conflicts of interest, imprecise data, and dubious processes; its stakeholders consider critiques of the canal “unpatriotic,” reluctant to learn from mistakes.
More grantmakers are using grants management software than ever before. In fact, the number of users has grown 66 percent since 2013, according to Idealware’s 2016 Consumer’s Guide to Grants Management Systems.
There are few topics and ideas that have generated as much buzz in philanthropy over the past few years as storytelling. It’s all with good reason, of course. Storytelling can help foundations and their grantees increase reach and resources—and, by extension, impact.
The tranquil world of America's foundations is about to be shaken, but if you read the Center for Effective Philanthropy's (CEP) recent study – Sharing What Matters, Foundation Transparency – you would never know it.
Don't get me wrong. That study, like everything CEP produces, is carefully researched, insightful and thoroughly professional. But it misses the single biggest change in foundation transparency in decades: the imminent release by the Internal Revenue Service of foundation 990-PF (and 990) tax returns as machine-readable open data.
I am all for the most recent developments in philanthropy. For example, I like data: It helps us measure things like program quality and even overall impact. It helps the social sector do better work. And I think transparency is critical: Sharing what we learn from our successes and failures creates a much stronger sector. And no, I’m not just a fairweather fan of these trends, I have witnessed the long-term benefits of transparency and data-driven grantmaking. They’re here to stay – and for good reason.
One other development in philanthropy I love? Capacity-building grants. More and more foundations are offering this game-changing support, and I believe the social sector is stronger for it.
You don't need a political scientist to tell you something is amiss in America. It's there, lurking, in the presidential primary campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, in our social media feeds, in between the lines of recent reports detailing falling mortality rates and rising rates of opioid addiction among working-class Americans.
It's part frustration, part anger, but mostly anxiety about the economy and our economic future. Where have good jobs for average Americans gone? Are technology and globalization benefiting or hurting the economy? And where will new good jobs — the kind that make it possible for young Americans to pay off their student loans, buy a home, raise a family — come from?
Grants management software is an investment, no doubt about it. But like all good investments, you should expect positive returns.
And we’re here to tell you: Adopting grants management software is one of the smartest investments you’ll make for your foundation.
When you bring up the idea of implementing new technology at your organization, you can be met with skepticism from your team. They might say, “Yes, the technology sounds great, but the implementation will take too long and is difficult," or, "We simply aren’t ready for the change.”
This is a normal response, if not based on myth. Don’t worry. We can help get your team on board, and we can help you prepare for your implementation.
Transparency and Foundation Results: In Philanthropy, What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander
The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s recent research report, Sharing What Matters: Perspectives on Foundation Transparency, released earlier this year, provides some startling data about the state of transparency in the foundation world.
While for the most part, foundation leaders recognize the importance of transparency and are trying to be more transparent, the report shows there is still much work to do.
Do I really need grants management software? When you get right down to it, what can grants management software do for me and my foundation?
These are great questions – questions every grantmaker who wants to make a greater impact should be asking. To be sure, you may find that new grants management software isn't a priority on your foundation's technology roadmap. That's a call only you and your team can make. But before you make that decision, make sure you know the lay of the land and explore your options.
Foundation leaders have told us that before they implemented new grants management software, they worried that a new system, including an online grants application, would be a hassle for prospective and existing grantees.
It turns out that their personal experience with grants management software has proven otherwise. It busted that myth wide open. These same foundation leaders ultimately found that grants management software didn’t just benefit their own teams – it was also a major win for their grantees.
So, how does good grants management software alleviate the burden from your grantees?
The year the New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) opened shop in a church basement in Manhattan, it dispersed $50,000 to four local groups dedicated to women’s needs. Now, almost 30 years later, NYWF’s funding tops out at $6 million a year, the largest women’s fund in the country and the third largest in the world.
From Cardboard to the Cloud: The Evolution of Grants Management Systems in an Era of Learning and Collaboration
Adriana Jimenez is Director of Grants Management at the ASPCA (formerly grants manager at the Surdna Foundation) and also serves on the board of directors of the Grants Managers Network. This post was first published on Transparency Talk, a project of the Foundation Center.
The Surdna Foundation’s first grants management system was made of cardboard: it was a shoebox filled with index cards. (Next there was a custom-built system, followed by an off-the-shelf installed one). For decades this box served the foundation’s basic record-keeping needs, but technology – and transparency – eventually took precedence.
Now in its 99th year, the foundation has since ditched the cardboard for the cloud. In 2015 Surdna transferred its grantmaking database to the cloud-based grants management system, Fluxx.
So, you’ve decided to start using grants management software or switch to a new grants management system at your foundation. Great! Your life is about to get a lot easier. But there’s a hurdle you need to clear before you take take the plunge: You need to convince your team that it’s the right move to make at the right time for your foundation. Pitching new technology can be daunting. We’ve been there. And making the case for implementing a new grants management system can be especially intimidating to those of us who don’t come from a tech background. That’s why we created this three-step plan to get your team to say “yes” to grants management software.
The way government grantmakers and many philanthropic institutions give out money to solve problems is stuck in the past.
San Francisco – (April 1, 2016) - After six years of developing leading edge, state-of-the-art grants management software, Fluxx Labs announces today that it will be pivoting its strategy to focus all of its resources on locally sourced, handcrafted grantmaking-as-a-service (GaaS) solutions.
Like many of you, we have been hearing more and more about the need for evaluating grant outcomes and assessing the impact of philanthropic work. In fact, you cannot attend a conference, read an article, or follow a blog or anyone on Twitter these days without hearing the drumbeat for "Impact! Impact! Impact!"
At Fluxx, we are in full agreement on the need for evaluation as a means to inform funding decisions, to improve the development and implementation of grant services, and to sustain impact over time. The problem that we see, however, is that most of the guidance around assessing impact, and evaluations more generally, are "quick fixes" that lack a meaningful evaluative framework, and neglect to understand that the success and appropriateness of any evaluation are heavily influenced by the program being implemented and the capacity of the organization conducting the evaluation.
How do you know you’re making an impact?
This has become one of the most frequently asked questions by philanthropic leaders in recent years. Perhaps the question gets asked so often because a simple answer is elusive. There is no silver bullet. But answer the question we must.
Now that we’ve had some time to settle into 2016, it’s time to look ahead – to the big ideas and trends that are likely to dominate the conversation in the philanthropic sector for the next 12 months and beyond. From billionaire tech tycoon philanthropy to the smallest crowdfunded community initiative, the year in philanthropy promises to test big ideas and, as always, refine the everyday hard work of grantmaking. Here is our, by no means exhaustive, list. Enjoy.
Cloud computing is everywhere, and it’s here to stay. “[Cloud] technology is no longer novel. In fact it has become the dominant paradigm in IT,” says Jim Lynch, of TechSoup. But despite its pervasive use, 39 percent of all foundations maintain their software and infrastructure in-house, according to a 2014 report co-written by the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) and the Grants Managers Network (GMN).
When Ericka Novotny started at the Arcus Foundation three and a half years ago, part of her job entailed finding a new grants management system for the foundation. At the time, the foundation's system wasn't web-based, and as a result Novotny and her team were having challenges around managing information, including grant data that could be used to tell important stories about the foundation's grantmaking.
Brad Smith is president of Foundation Center.
America's foundations are not particularly interested in receiving your proposal. Earlier this year I did a quick search on Foundation Directory Online (FDO) of the 96,042 independent, company-sponsored, and community foundations based in the U.S. The results were pretty shocking: only 26,663 are willing to accept unsolicited proposals. That's right, 28 percent.
Henry Berman is the CEO of Exponent Philanthropy
We live in a non-stop world of communications where we are constantly bombarded with messages. It can be difficult to sort through it all, to understand, to listen. Yet, I wonder if the challenge is in listening or hearing?
The San Francisco-based Christensen Fund focuses its philanthropic efforts in regions of the world chosen for their potential to withstand and recover from the global erosion of diversity. Most of the foundation’s program officers are located in these regions, including the African Rift Valley, Northwestern Mexico, Melanesia, and Central Asia.
To fulfill its mission of helping create a more biodiverse world, the Christensen Fund realized it needed a more flexible and forward thinking grants management solution. By early 2013, the foundation knew there was a smarter, more efficient way to award its $15 million of grants a year, and that it was time for a change.
Philanthropy leaders are at their most strategic and are empowered to build capacity when they have a strong awareness of themselves, their partners, and the field. I'll explain:
Awareness is pretty much the name of our game at the Foundation Center. The organization collects, analyzes, and distributes data about philanthropy, providing various audiences – from foundations to budding nonprofits to established grants managers – a firm understanding of what’s going on in the social sector.
The author, Patrick Taylor of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, and his daughter, Rose.
I am the lucky father of a wonderful two-year-old girl, Rose. She is silly, inquisitive, sweet, curious, playful, cuddly, and a lot of fun. She is also a tough cookie. Anyone who has dealt with a two-year-old knows what irrational balls of anger they can sometimes be. Being a father has taught me a lot of lessons that apply to the world of grants management. After all, in our role as grants managers, we are often in a compliance position, telling people what they can and cannot do, and trying to get sometimes reluctant people to go along with your program.
Here are some of the lessons that being a parent has taught me about grants management.
For many nonprofit organizations, the grantseeking process is overwhelming. Every foundation asks for something a little different from their applicants – and after all the hard work, funding is never guaranteed. Maybe you find yourself wondering how you’re ever going to streamline (let alone master) the grantseeking process at your nonprofit. Don't worry. We've got five tips to get you started.
Grantmaking can be a complex and time consuming venture, even for relatively small or mid-sized grantmakers, to say nothing of the foundations paying out grants in the millions or even billions of dollars. Managing the entire process – tracking scores of applications, reviewers, requirements, and payments all simultaneously – takes serious planning, foresight, and a good grants management software solution.
Matthew Maguire takes data to heart.
“It’s how we track all of our progress,” says Maguire, a finance business partner at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. “Data is what holds us accountable. It’s one of our core values and is driven through everything that we do.”
Maguire and his London-based team have committed to using data to drive decision-making to achieve their mission of creating a world where every child can not only survive, but also thrive.
The nonprofit and philanthropic community lost one of its giants Tuesday. Rick Cohen, the indomitable watchdog, muckraker, and indefatigable journalist, died after he collapsed at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 64 years old.
ECMC Foundation was founded in 2002, but the foundation took a substantial change in direction in late 2014 to rebuild itself as a grantmaking foundation focused on improving the educational outcomes of underserved populations through evidenced-based innovation.
"People tend to be private about love and money, and in philanthropy, it's both," says Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center.
It's only natural that, traditionally, philanthropy has unfolded behind closed doors. On the one hand, the freedom to make personal funding choices gives grantmakers the ability to stay above the fray, uninfluenced by both market and political pressures. On the other hand, it doesn't allow the public to understand, learn from, or think critically about philanthropy.
“Instilling best practices is easier when you’re still small,” says Marilu Hastings, vice president of The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s Sustainability Program. “That’s why I recommended to the foundation’s president, Katherine Lorenz, that we move to Fluxx now, before the foundation’s programs grow significantly in the next few years.”
Rob Wilson was excited to take on the role of the executive director of the Select Equity Group Foundation, but he soon found that the process to get things done was not so simple.
As Blue Shield of California Foundation began to grow and learn from and interact more with their grantmaking data, Grants and Contracts Manager Gwyneth Tripp recognized the need to move to a grants management solution that would grow with them and, more importantly, evolve with the industry.
Kelvin Alfaro, program officer at the Central Valley Community Foundation (formerly the Fresno Regional Foundation) knew there had to be a way to manage the grantmaking process more efficiently and effectively. Prior to 2013 the foundation was creating their own system of forms which made it tedious and time consuming to manage different grant cycles.
When the Peery Foundation decided it was time to look for a new grants management solution, the foundation was using three separate tools for their grants management and project management needs. "We were duplicating our efforts when it came to recording our grant information and it was not an efficient use of the team's time," says Jocelyn Rheem, program associate and project lead on the foundation’s search for a new grants management platform.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Best Practices for a Successful Grants Management Software Implementation
Anne McKissick, the director of grants management and information services at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is well-known in the philanthropic community, having spent decades successfully managing grant operations and information services for private foundations. She inherited GIFTS, the grants management platform, when she joined Sloan but she knew that it wouldn’t provide the features that she needed.
Committed grantmakers are always looking to update, revise, and perfect their practices. Ask any grantmaker what they think about the state of their work (or any grantee for that matter), and they’ll probably give you a laundry list of ways they think the grantmaking process could be improved to ultimately make advancements in the issues they care about most.
Data, Freeing Your Mind, and Philanthropy’s Moral Obligation, A Conversation With Suki O'Kane of the Haas Fund
Access to data has given grantmakers the ability to make informed decisions, understand their progress, and find deeper meaning in their funding choices. But data collection, data analysis, and finding this deeper meaning don’t always come easy. Many philanthropy professionals probably didn’t envision data wrangling as part of their job description when they decided to enter the field.
By 2013 Anne McKissick, the director of grants management and information services at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, knew she needed a platform that would automate the grant workflow, provide dashboards upon which to base decisions, allow easy remote access for traveling program directors, facilitate internal and external review of grant proposals, track budgets, and make it easier to communicate with grantees.
Whether you are a foundation, corporate giving entity, government, medical research foundation, or nonprofit, we want to help you better understand what each version of our grants management solution brings to the table so that you can make an informed decision that will most benefit your organization’s needs and processes.
Since early 2013 Knight Foundation has been using Fluxx to optimize its grantmaking processes to fund more grantees in a shorter amount of time, allowing the foundation to concentrate more on portfolio-level strategy.
For 16 years, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation had been using a widely respected software solution to help keep track of the grantmaking process, but Andrea Dobson, Chief Operating & Financial Officer at the foundation found it tedious and inefficient.
In 2011, the South African-based DG Murray Trust began the process of looking for a replacement for its existing grants management solution. The team was feeling constrained by the rigid workflows and lack of an online application. Knowing that a more modern solution was likely available, Sandra Ngwena, the director of operations at DGMT began exploring options.
As you may have read in Forbes, Fluxx is entering an exciting new phase of growth. We recently raised what we think is the perfect Series A round of funding, with backing from Felicis Ventures and Kresge Foundation.
That the investment comes from both the Silicon Valley venture community and the foundation world is not accidental. Fluxx aims to bring modern, cloud-based technology to the sector, working hand in hand with the philanthropic community to reinvent the way grants management works – empowering both grantmakers and grantseekers to think differently about how they accomplish and report on their missions.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: data is here to stay. Whether you can’t wait to crunch numbers, or you avoid metrics like the plague, you can’t deny that data helps your nonprofit do better work.
Data measures progress: It tells you if you’re working in line with your mission; if you’re providing all you can for your beneficiaries; if you’re making the most of your grant dollars.
Data tells you what’s working and what’s not: Do the students in your afterschool programs learn anything? Are they more successful in the classroom?
Data helps you scale up (or down): It tells you whether you can offer more programs in a different city, or if you’re trying to tackle too much too soon.
Some nonprofits are already harnessing the power of data, and are pushing its boundaries everyday. Take the Crisis Text Line (CTL), a New York City-based nonprofit, founded in 2013 by Do Something’s CEO, Nancy Lublin, which provides counseling services via text to individuals in crisis.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation makes 450 to 500 grants a year worth some $125 million. The foundation is considered one of the premier grantmakers in the country. But that didn’t stop the folks at Knight from wanting to be even more impactful.
Grantmaking can be a complex and time consuming venture, even for relatively small or mid-sized grantmakers, to say nothing of the foundations paying out grants in the millions or even billions of dollars. Managing the entire process – tracking scores of applications, reviewers, requirements, and payments all simultaneously – takes serious planning, foresight, and a good grants management software solution.
The world is a complex place. No one knows this better than the people who make it their mission to help solve today’s most urgent problems.
Increasingly, foundations and other grantmakers are turning to the power of data – and technology that makes access to that data possible – to help navigate the complexities of making change in a hyper-connected, interdependent world.
The world is a complex place. No one knows this better than the people who make it their mission to help solve today’s most urgent problems.
Increasingly, foundations and other grantmakers are turning to the power of data – and technology that now makes access to that data possible – to help navigate the complexities of making change in a hyper-connected, interdependent world.
Scenes from the 2015 Fluxx (Un)Conference
From the moment we decided to bring the entire Fluxx community together to learn, share, and collaborate in an urban winery in San Francisco for two days, we knew the folks who use Fluxx everyday to manage their grants had to play the starring role.
And that’s exactly what they did. In fact, they were super stars.
On February 1, The Ford Foundation adopted an open licensing policy via Creative Commons so that it can share its grantees’ innovative work, from research reports and evaluation findings, to white papers and websites. Creative Commons is a nonprofit “that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” Many foundations produce knowledge in the form of publications and reports, but few take the time to think beyond their own use of that knowledge. By embracing open licensing, the Ford Foundation is encouraging others to build on its work, which has great potential to increase its impact and reach.
Foundation executives are behind the times when it comes to adopting new technology, according to the results of a recent survey. The report may leave you wondering if there isn't a missed opportunity for grantmakers to amplify their work – and in turn, their grantees' work – through the smart use of new technology.
“Grantmakers are not keeping up with the pace of technology,” said Michelle Greanias, executive director of the Grants Managers Network (GMN). “This can lead to a host of issues that affect not only funders but their grantees, who have to work within the technology constraints of foundations.”
Only 23 percent of foundations indicated that their executives totally understand the benefits of technology and 66 percent said their executives were “supportive but not very knowledgeable,” according to the report, produced jointly by the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) and GMN.
The majority of foundations report that technology is causing some change within their organizations, but less than 20 percent describe that change as “transformative.” And almost half of survey respondents described their technology adoption as “lags behind,” according to the report.
To be sure, technology does not cure all. And it makes good sense for foundations to place the utmost priority on program-related business. It may be time for some foundations to look more closely at how technology can support their programs.
“While many foundations are very progressive with respect to their grantmaking programs, they are not nearly as forward-thinking with respect to the strategic use of technology in their business practices,” said Lisa Pool, executive director of TAG.
Take grants management software: Foundations are gradually becoming paperless operations as they continue to implement online grant applications, electronic workflow, and document management software. Twenty percent of foundations reported they have an entirely paperless grants process, up 6 percent from 2012.
But with a less than enthusiastic embrace of new technology, are foundations getting the most out of their grants management systems? Not likely, according to Pool.
There have never been as many grants management tools available, said Pool, but it’s hard for staff to take full advantage of the software’s potential given the lack of strategic vision and comfort with technology reported for most foundation leaders.
Underscoring the point, it seems that the majority of foundations don’t see the value in technology planning for the future.
Only 23 percent of respondents said they have a technology plan that has been updated within the last two years, while an additional 15 percent reported they have a plan but it has not been updated, according to the report. “A Total of 62 percent of respondents reported they did not have a technology plan at all.”
All these results point to foundation leaders – and foundations themselves – not being ready for newer technologies that are replacing familiar but outdated systems, the authors conclude.
A side note: There has been a huge increase of foundations using dashboards and other tools to track outcomes. The use of operational dashboards increased from 16 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2014. Interestingly there has been a small decrease in the use of programmatic dashboards. Forty-two percent of respondents said they used a business intelligence or analytics tool.
But why aren’t foundations more foreword thinking when it comes to adopting new technology on a broader scale?
Though cost and staffing concerns play a significant role in foundations’ resistance to new technology, there are other factors to consider.
Foundations have limited external accountability, which in many ways, is a great strength. It gives foundations the independence and freedom to do something bold, unpopular, unconventional, according to the PhilanthropyRoundtable. But this also can leave foundation leaders in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stance when it comes to new technology. They may not feel the urgency the same way a bottom-line driven business does. Or they believe every minute spent focusing on technology is a minute spent away from achieving their core mission.
It's clear, though, that how foundations view new technology is beginning to change to some degree, as the survey results show. For example, 68 percent of foundations will have replaced their grants management software between 2007 and 2015. That’s a lot of new technology implementation going on.
If the corporate and consumer markets are any indication, the rate of adoption will only grow exponentially. And the products to serve them will only improve.
Ever since the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was signed in 1999, satellite companies like DMC International Imaging have had a clear protocol with which to provide valuable imagery to public actors in times of crisis. In a single week this February, DMCii tasked its fleet of satellites on flooding in the United Kingdom, fires in India, floods in Zimbabwe, and snow in South Korea. Official crisis response departments and relevant UN departments can request on-demand access to the visuals captured by these “eyes in the sky” to better assess damage and coordinate relief efforts.
Despite recent efforts by the philanthropic community to increase diversity within the sector, little progress has been made, according to a recent study conducted by the Association of Black Foundation Executives.
Only 3 percent of philanthropic institutions are led by black chief executives, according to the study. And the percent of black individuals holding trustee positions remains stagnant at 7 percent, reports ABFE.