Is this the #crowdfunding scandal I predicted?

lucy bernholz

By Lucy Bernholz

This blog was re-posted with permission from Philanthropy 2173

Oculus VR for $2 billion. This is a big payout for a company (Oculus) that got its product launched with Kickstarter support. And now those Kickstarter supporters are wondering why they’re not getting any return on their “investment.”

Because most Kickstarter support is not an investment. Indiegogo support may or may not be a charitable gift.  Crowdfunding on most platforms is a pre-purchase of a product – if you want it to be something else you have to choose carefully. Most crowdfunding support is not even a pre-purchase of the actual product, it’s  a purchase of a sticker or t-shirt that says “Hey, I thought this thing was cool and so I gave it $10.”

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Mapping DACA: New Tool Tracks Philanthropy’s Investments in Program for Immigrant Youth

This blog was re-posted with permission from PhilanTopic.

Felecia BartowBy Felecia Bartow
Sebastopol, CA

In June 2012, the Obama administration announced a new policy directive that provided the opportunity for nearly two million immigrant youth and young adults across the country to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This temporary form of relief offers eligible immigrants a possible reprieve from the threat of deportation and has the potential to encourage immigrant students to continue and/or complete their education and enter the formal economy.

As word of this historic opportunity spread, foundations from California to New York and Oregon to North Carolina responded. Despite differences in grantmaking and geographic priorities, these funders seized the opportunity to meet the pressing needs of DACA-eligible immigrants in communities across the country by supporting a wide range of implementation activities, including expanding outreach efforts and eligibility screenings, and helping applicants meet educational requirements and cover the cost of the $465 application fee.

Foundation Center and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees are pleased to announce the launch of the DACA Grants Map, which provides the first-ever comprehensive overview of related investments. This tool offers information on the geographic areas served by DACA-related grants and grant details such as dollar amount, duration, date issued, strategies supported, and investment type.

DACA Map Screenshot_2

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April Fools! (or is it?)


In many countries, there’s a (silly, but rather enjoyable) tradition that April 1 is a national day of joking known as April Fools’ Day. At GrantCraft, we were delighted to see Larry Kramer from the Hewlett Foundation participate through his spot-on, sincerely funny blog post. An excerpt:

Speaking of strategic philanthropy (because we’re always speaking of strategic philanthropy around here), a recent evaluation that involved a robust randomized control trial suggests that our approach to grantmaking does no better than random chance. Before acting on this somewhat unexpected finding, I want to see if we can replicate it internally. So we’re going to take a portion of our grant making portfolio and throw darts at a dartboard to select a control group of grantees. We’ll be looking closely at these so-called “bullseye” grantees to see if they do better at achieving results than those we select through our normal rigorous strategic approach.  Fingers crossed everyone!

Bullseye grantmaking strips foundations of the need to spend days, weeks, and staff retreats planning for a strategic portfolio by putting efficiency first. And hey, the fingers crossed method of sustainable impact is probably not a bad idea either. But I have one hole to pick in this: if dart throwing is the best strategy, why is nobody doing it? Funders like Grant from Texas and Sophie from London have shared how thoughtful they and their foundations are with their grantmaking process; I find it hard to believe that throwing a dart would be smarter! And Hewlett’s own grantmaking in it’s current form, too, shows pretty top-notch grantees benefiting from well-formulated programs. That robust randomized control trial evaluation might be flawed after all…

History of Grants while Spending Down

Navigate through this interactive timeline of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) grants from 1986-2012, which is a great example of how funders can tell their own stories.

View the timeline and full ACBP grants directory»

To hear voices from ACBP’s spend down, follow our ongoing blog series. How do you tell your foundation’s giving story? Post examples in the comments!

New to the field? This one’s for you.

Folks who are new to the field often request a glossary of terms just to make sure they know the basics. Our sister site GrantSpace (geared more towards nonprofits, while GrantCraft speaks more directly to funders) has shared the below list that defines the most commonly used terms in Foundation Center materials.

501(c)(3) The section of the tax code that defines nonprofit, charitable, tax-exempt organizations. 501(c)(3) organizations are further defined as public charities, private operating foundations, and private non-operating foundations. See also: operating foundationprivate foundationpublic charity.

Annual report A voluntary report issued by a foundation or corporation that provides financial data and descriptions of its grantmaking activities. Annual reports vary in format from simple typewritten documents listing the year’s grants to detailed publications that provide substantial information about the grantmaker’s grantmaking programs.

Assets The amount of capital or principal — money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources — controlled by a foundation or corporate giving program. Generally, assets are invested and the resulting income is used to make grants.

Beneficiary In philanthropic terms, the donee or grantee receiving funds from a foundation or corporate giving program is the beneficiary, although society may benefit as well.

Capital support Funds provided for endowment purposes, buildings, construction, or equipment.

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Leadership and the Lessons of Change

Grant Coates HeadshotBy Grant Coates
Fort Worth, TX

“It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.”  ~W. Edwards Deming

I love this quote, because it reflects the necessity of change to stay relevant, but also our inherent reluctance to take that step forward.  At The Miles Foundation this past year, we’ve certainly pushed ourselves to implement changes we believe will help propel us forward and build stronger partnerships – even when it has felt a little uncomfortable.

The great part of change, though, is what you learn through the process of transformation. With our first-ever Annual Report, a fresh website and new grantee stories published (along with an inaugural social media presence), our intentional focus on transparency and connectivity has been an exciting and informative journey.

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[WEBINAR RECORDING] Coffee and Conversation with Mary Gregory

We had over 100 people register for our free coffee and conversation webinar about transparency featuring Mary Gregory on March 20. The recording is available here in full for those who were unable to attend. Cosponsored by Northern California Grantmakers, we provided an overview of our new GrantCraft resource Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency with our Glasspockets colleague and then dove into the topic of building stronger grantee relationships through transparency with our guest, Mary Gregory. We received several great questions from our audience and will continue this webinar series on transparency by exploring other chapters in the guide with other guest funders. To make sure you hear about the next webinar, subscribe to this blog or to our eblasts, and follow us on Twitter. And, if you have a story about transparency from your foundation that you’d like to share, please email us.

Lessons From a Grantee Capacity Building Project

13b31afBy Eleanor A. Smith
San Francisco, CA

Below are key lessons from theory of change work I led recently as a consultant to early childhood grantees of San Francisco’s Bella Vista Foundation (BVF). A long-time strategy and evaluation consultant to foundations and nonprofits, I offered a workshop introducing theory of change to grantees in the foundation’s Infants & Families Connecting (IFC) program. After the training, BVF Executive Director Mary Gregory invited groups to apply for “mini-grants,” to cover a few hours of my time to assist them in growing their capacity by developing their own theory of change.

BVF’s leaders’ long-term goal for the mini-grants technical assistance project was to increase the foundation’s ability, down the road, to evaluate the social impact of its IFC grantmaking. “As we developed our theory of change,” Mary said, “it became clear that an early step would be to increase our grantees’ ability to better assess their own progress and be able to improve their programs.” Such increased grantee evaluation and learning capacity would eventually allow BVF to connect the dots between the foundation’s own theory of change and the IFC grantees’ family and child outcomes.

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Building transparency into the operational structure of a new fund

Sophie Pritchard

By Sophie Pritchard
London, United Kingdom

It’s nearly two years since the inception of Edge Fund. From the beginning, we had aims to be democratic, accessible, and accountable to the groups and communities our decisions affect whilst also providing much needed funding to grassroots efforts. Transparency has been an important part of what we do and has led to an approach that involves the communities and groups we aim to help as decision-makers, and brings them together to support and learn from each other.

As a group of people concerned about social justice, it was not sufficient only to focus on inequality of wealth, but also to overcome issues of power. Therefore, the process of setting up our fund was a collective process involving around fifty people from different communities and groups across the UK. We wanted to get funding to groups that other funders considered to be too radical, and to groups led by and for communities facing injustice and discrimination who often face many barriers to funding.

Gaining trust

One of our biggest challenges is gaining the trust of communities who have long been excluded and minoritised by the mainstream. Isis Amlak, of grantee group One Voice Community Collective and a member of Edge Fund, explained the situation with one community:  ”Historically when ‘Black’ (in a political sense, to include all communities facing discrimination based on their race) groups have taken funding, they have found themselves compromised and, restricted, and far too many became reliant to the detriment of creativity, self-reliance, and self-sustainability. When the funding stopped, they stopped. There is also a great deal of suspicion, rightly so, about sources of funding; who are the benefactors/philanthropists behind the scenes? What is the real agenda?” The same issues apply to many other communities, such as low income communities and disabled people, who often find that both funders and charities impose their own solutions on to them with little consultation let alone actually involving them in the decision-making process.

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Foundation Center sessions at the Grants Managers Network conference Mon-Wed

Stop by our booth or one of our sessions, including one directly from GrantCraft!

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