Speaking Up: Philanthropic Advocacy and Legal Lobbying
With Michigan’s August primary election taking place tomorrow and the gubernatorial election just three months away, now is the time to seek out opportunities to speak with candidates and elected officials. As leaders and resource providers working to address challenges that have plagued our state, foundations understand Michigan's communities and the unique issues they face.
There are nine proposals set to appear on November’s ballot, including questions about raising the minimum wage, providing workers with earned sick time off and creating a redistricting commission.
The proposal for a redistricting commission comes off the heels of a Michigan Court of Appeals decision which rejected the continuation of political district lines drawn by the legislature. Ending the legislative hold on district lines would prevent gerrymandering, which has allowed government officials to ensure their party voters remain the majority. It’s now up to voters to decide.
Those interested in advocacy and expanding their outreach to legislators may be unclear about the legal do’s and don’ts.
Advocacy, as defined by the Philanthropy Advocacy Playbook, can include conducting policy research, meeting with reporters, educating the public, lobbying a legislator, meeting with a government regulator, filing a lawsuit or mobilizing voters.
There is so much funders can do to advocate for issues. Like Launch Michigan that is bringing many different partners together around boosting educational excellence, foundations can work with organizations to form coalitions toward systems change, convene government, nonprofit and businesses to a common table, educate the public by raising awareness of policy matters and build capacity through internal and external training.
Foundations may also publish reports to educate policymakers, the public and the media on specific issues, be a voice for the policy work of foundation grantees, and fund advocacy and legal lobbying (so long as it is not a substantial part of a foundation’s activities) with other funders.
You can talk about your successes and the progress you’ve made to support a brighter future for Michigan, while reiterating why it’s important to continue those efforts. Foundations and government are stronger as partners in this work.
Restrictions include endorsing or opposing candidates, making campaign contributions, asking candidates to sign pledges, highlighting differences between candidates and engaging in issues advocacy when there are no clear electoral purposes for doing so.
The event slides linked at the bottom of this page are a portion of the slide deck from a past CMF program; the slides share further information regarding the legal do’s and don’ts of foundation advocacy. Additionally, we will host a webinar on Aug. 29th at 1pm to continue this conversation. With help from the Michigan League for Public Policy, this webinar will include an update on upcoming ballot issues and will address legal rights around public advocacy.
As we consider the challenges our state and our nation face, and how we will achieve solutions and successes, this may also be the best time to consider what a civil society means and how we can work together. In “Civic Virtues and the Healing of Partisan Divides,” Bob Boisture, president, Fetzer Institute, underscores love for humanity as the basis of a thriving civil society and discusses the five essential civic virtues that follow from that love. This piece, published as part of the Independent Sector and Stanford Social Innovation Review article series Civil Society for the 21st Century, discusses how "in a time when many are drawing a line between communities and ideologies, the best line to draw is one that goes right through every human heart."
Check out the event slides on legal do’s and don’ts (linked at the end of this page).
Read Bob Boisture’s published article “Civic Virtues and the Healing of Partisan Divides.”
CMF Provides Leadership in Development of New Grantmaker Platform
"Grantmaking programs are complicated to manage. Even the relatively small programs can involve tracking dozens of applications, reviewers, requirements and payments."
The above comment comes from the introduction in "A Consumers Guide to Grants Management Systems," a free publication from Idealware last published in 2016 (with supplements published in 2017) reviewing 29 different systems and comparing them against nearly 200 requirements criteria.
The guide's writers go on to note that grants management software can help address this challenge by making the processes more effective and transparent, "even transforming the way they do business."
The team currently developing Outbound Funds may be the next to transform the grants management software business with their new database platform that is open source and free to use.
Outbound Funds is a community-supported, Salesforce-based technology solution for grantmaking organizations. (Salesforce is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) enterprise application used by companies and nonprofits around the globe. Its foundation, Salesforce.org, offers free licenses and customized solutions built on Salesforce for nonprofit and educational institutions.)
North Peak, a consulting firm supporting the development of Outbound Funds, explains that the desire to turn Salesforce into a grantmaker CRM has existed for many years.
"To date, the two methods have been to customize the application from scratch or to buy into a fully built enterprise-level app... These methods will still have their place in the lexicon of options. The goal with this initiative is to provide a third path, one we feel is appropriate for a wide-range of foundations with diverse needs."
Bill Corkill, CMF Director of Technology, is one of 10 individuals helping to lead creation of the new platform. His involvement began over two years ago when a small group of users started designing the architecture for an app within Salesforce’s online community for nonprofits, the Power of Us HUB.
"This was an opportunity to work together with nonprofits and major firms to innovate in a way that could really support our members and the sector as a whole," Corkill notes.
Corkill spearheaded design of the initial app and subsequent community testing. In July 2017, a separate group of Salesforce professionals identified the need for grantmaking functionality built on the Salesforce platform and connected with Corkill's group through a mutual colleague from North Peak. The two teams joined forces, and using Corkill's design as a foundation, have collaboratively led the open source initiative.
"We have tried to involve the user community as much as possible to make sure the platform was the most flexible it could be," Corkill notes.
The app is set to work for any organization already using Salesforce or Salesforce.org’s Nonprofit Success Pack, a tailored Salesforce solution for nonprofits.
"Here you've got an initiative that could revolutionize the technology options for grantmakers," notes Brian Pickett, founder and senior consultant, North Peak. "To say it could bode well for CMF members is an understatement!"
The Outbound Funds team has built prototypes, gathered feedback and assessed how to standardize the model while preserving the flexibility of the Salesforce platform. Corkill explains that this work has helped to create a common starting point for organizations or partners building out complex grant solutions in Salesforce, as well as common framework for grants or other outbound funds.
"Many years of interest and effort led to this point where the right people at the right time catalyzed a future where grantmakers can leverage the world’s number one CRM platform to manage programs, funds, applications, grantees, contacts, community groups, grants, deliverables and impacts," North Peak shared in an online project update.
The M&M Area Community Foundation (MMACF), a CMF member, is using Outbound Funds now after implementing Salesforce about three years ago.
Patrice Sessler, finance and program director, MMACF says she is excited to see where their foundation can go with the new grant functionality.
“We had been running everything from spreadsheets, so we felt this would be a really good option,” Sessler told CMF. “We think this will provide a better overview – how many times an organization has applied, what programs they applied for, how much they applied for and received – and we can see it in one place without going back to past spreadsheets.”
Sessler first heard about Outbound Funds through conversation with Corkill, who cautions that the open source product may not be the right fit for all foundations.
"There are many considerations when discussing the best option for your organization. If you have been managing grants through basic spreadsheets and you need a better centralized system to share information among staff and to track grantees, donations or grants, Outbound Funds may be an option to consider."
For those whose grantmaking work is more complex, Corkill says some foundations may prefer an off-the-shelf product, or Outbound Funds may be a starting point to creating a custom solution. "There is an array of tools and solutions that may meet your needs."
Corkill advises that whether a foundation is interested in a customized solution, a fully-built application or the open source platform, in-house expertise or consultant support will be needed, particularly for data migration, customization and training.
"Any of these options will require an investment of time and resources, but they can create an opportunity for significantly increased efficiency, improved workflows and better reporting."
Sessler says she has enjoyed the flexibility of Salesforce and the fact that the grant program can be tailored to meet their needs but agrees that it does take time.
“Because Salesforce can do so much, the screen can be overwhelming for those who may not be used to it,” but Sessler describes herself as “fearless” when it comes to digging into new tools and says CMF staff provided a great deal of support. MMACF was also the recipient of a grant through CMF to receive consultant-led training.
Corkill says foundations interested in testing or using the Outbound Funds platform can do so by signing up for Salesforce.org’s Power of Us program, which gives a nonprofit access to 10 free licenses to the Salesforce platform and Nonprofit Success Pack. Organizations will then have access to install and use the initial release of Outbound Funds through the Power of Us HUB.
In the meantime, the volunteer group working on the project will continue to build and enhance the project based on user feedback from the community of users.
Read the North Peak Outbound update.
Check out Idealware's "A Consumers Guide to Grants Management Systems."
New Report Highlights Opportunities for Foundations to Improve Diversity Efforts
In an effort to better understand the efforts of nonprofit organizations when it comes to diversity and the ways in which their foundation funders are interacting with and/or supporting those efforts, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) sent surveys to 338 leaders of nonprofit organizations with annual expenses between $100,000 and $100 million.
CEP referenced the D5 definition of diversity: "The demographic mix of a specific collection of people, taking into account elements of human difference, but focusing particularly on: racial and ethnic groups (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics/Latinos/Latinas, African Americans and blacks, and American Indians and Alaska Natives); LGBT populations; people with disabilities; and women."
The study, supported in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was conducted over a four-week period in January and February 2018. The 32-question survey was themed around three key questions:
In what ways is diversity relevant to nonprofit organizations’ goals?
What demographic information are nonprofits collecting, and how is that information used?
How are foundations involved in the diversity efforts of grantees, and how would those grantees like their funders to be involved?
With just over 200 responses in hand, the research provides a compelling look at the sector, captured in the CEP report "Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations."
Ellie Buteau, vice president, research, CEP shared in a blog post, "We hope that the data proves useful for foundations and nonprofits alike, and that it sparks more conversation between the two about how and why diversity is essential for the effectiveness of nonprofits and their foundation funders."
Key Finding – Organization Staff Diversity
While 64 percent of nonprofit CEOs believe that in order to achieve their organization’s goals, it’s very or extremely important for their board to be diverse, only 22 percent believe their board is very or extremely diverse.
Though 61 percent of nonprofit CEOs believe that in order to achieve their organization’s goals, it’s very or extremely important for their board to reflect those they seek to serve, only 26 percent of CEOs believe their boards are reflecting those populations very or extremely well.
70 percent of nonprofit CEOs believe it is very or extremely important for their organization’s staff to be diverse, but only 36 percent believe their staff are actually very or extremely diverse.
Buteau writes, "Nonprofit leaders recognize that they have room for improvement in terms of how diverse they believe their staffs and boards should be in order to achieve their organization’s goals versus how diverse they currently are - and they also recognize they have steps to take to better reflect the populations they are serving, and that it’s important for them to do so."
According to a 2015 data analysis, while people of color represented 30 percent of the American workforce, only 18 percent of nonprofit staff and 22 percent of foundation staff were comprised of people of color. For foundations, those numbers significantly decrease when looking at leadership and board positions.
Key Finding – Discussing Diversity with Nonprofits
Nearly half of nonprofit CEOs (42 percent) report that their organization’s foundation funders have not discussed diversity issues with them. And, of the nonprofit CEOs whose foundation funders request demographic information, only 21 percent report that those funders explain how they use the demographic information they collect.
Key Finding – How Funders Can Help
While 42 percent of nonprofit CEOs say they don’t want foundations very involved or involved at all in their organization’s diversity efforts, 17 percent do want them very or extremely involved.
Buteau cites three examples of the varied types of support desired by those respondents:
Best practice sharing - workshops, webinars, challenges - as well as funding to help support the learning to strengthen those practices.
Support for staff recruitment efforts and salaries that would attract a diverse pool of candidates.
Help in finding ideal and diverse board candidates.
A 2018 study from The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University on advancing racial equity within nonprofit organizations suggests that foundations can also help nonprofits by paying staff for time spent on racial equity work, helping to find and support recruitment pipelines for people of color, and creating networks that will continue to advance these processes.
"There is no one solution to how foundations can support nonprofits in their diversity efforts," Buteau concludes. "There needs to be communication between foundations and nonprofits about what is needed and what would be most helpful when it comes to diversity at any given nonprofit."
At least one respondent highlighted the need for even broader conversation to take place.
"If we are going to eliminate disparities that negatively impact people of color disproportionately, funders, nonprofit leaders, policy makers, all of us need to have the courage to talk about race, racism, and how it contributes to, if not causes, the disparities we seek to eliminate."
The university study, which also involved nonprofit leaders, highlights the need for organizations to demonstrate an "ongoing, intentional commitment to the work."
"There were two words that came up again and again in our interviews with nonprofit leaders - intentionality and language. There was consensus that working on racial equity went beyond attending a training or adopting a new policy."
Foundations interested in digging deeper into this work may want to explore the Racial Equity Resource Guide developed as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's America Healing work, which started in 2010 prior to the beginning of Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT). The site includes practical resources - including articles, organizations, research, books, media strategies and training curricula - for organizations and individuals working to achieve racial healing and equity in their communities.
Foundations may also be interested in the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Assessment made available by our colleagues at the Michigan Nonprofit Association to help nonprofit organizations assess their current status and future progress on the journey to make DEI values a reality.
Download CEP's free report "Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations."
Subscribe to the CEP blog.
Access the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Racial Equity Resource Guide.
Member Spotlight: C.S. Mott Foundation
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation was recently honored with the 2018 Secretary’s Award for Public and Philanthropic Partnerships from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Council on Foundations. Given to only 10 organizations across the country, the award recognizes "exemplary partnerships between foundations and government that have been critical in transforming communities and improving lives."
“It’s this collaborative approach to service that will lead us to find solutions to help the most vulnerable in our communities,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “I’m pleased to recognize these award winners for the important work they do to serve the housing, health, safety and educational needs of their fellow Americans.”
Carson presented the award to Mott Foundation president Ridgway White at a convening at HUD Headquarters in Washington, DC in July 2018.
"From our earliest days, we’ve helped people and organizations to step forward, engage with their communities and create meaningful change," White notes. "This approach has never been more crucial - or its impact more evident - than in the wake of Flint’s water crisis, when public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic partners collaborated to rapidly expand access to early childhood education in the city."
White explains that as the crisis was unfolding, Mott program staff reviewed research, met with community leaders and people working on the ground, and consulted with health and education experts in Flint and around the country to help the foundation prioritize its efforts.
"We learned that, to help counter the potential impact of lead exposure on learning, Flint’s children needed better access to year-round, high-quality early childhood education. So we began convening partners at the local, state and national levels, and from across sectors, to make that happen."
The collaboration resulted in the creation of two full-day, full-year schools that provide high-quality early learning and wrap-around services for up to 400 children from birth to age 5, as well as supportive services for their families. Cummings Great Expectations: An Early Childhood Center, opened to students in October 2016; Educare Flint opened in November 2017.
In its overview of Mott as a recipient, HUD highlights the depth of the partnership and opportunities for long-term learning.
"Formal linkages between the centers and a national network of providers, researchers, advocates and other early learning champions will support the ongoing exchange of successful models and promising practices. Additionally, a public-philanthropic collaborative is in place to help identify, support and advance opportunities to further improve and expand early childhood education in Flint. A rigorous, long-term evaluation of this approach and its physical, behavioral and cognitive impacts for students is planned."
"The aim is to 'lift all boats' by improving care for more of Flint’s youngest residents, offering promising models to other communities and helping to inform public policies on early childhood education," White says.
White notes that he accepted the award on behalf of the foundation's many project partners, which included the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Read Ridgway White's full "Mott's Perspectives" story on the partnership.
Learn more about the award and other recipients.