Author Archives: Maria Di Mento
June 5, 2012, 9:00 am
America’s big companies are slowly increasing the amount they give to charity since making big cuts in their philanthropy during the recession, but they are still donating far less than they did before the hard times began in 2007, according to preliminary results of a new study that were released today.
The downturn has also reinforced a trend that has swept corporate philanthropy in the past decade, as more and more companies have decided to focus their giving to one or two causes rather than supporting a broad range of groups. Just 4 percent of the 144 companies in the study said they support a wide array of causes.
The study, by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy and the Conference Board, found that the median amount donated by companies rose slightly less than 1 percent last year, to $24.4-million. While that was just a modest rise, it is still a 7.4-percent gain…
May 16, 2012, 11:22 am
Competitions to spur scientific and technology developments have grown in popularity in recent years, but social causes have yet to get so much attention until now.
The Robin Hood Foundation and the X Prize Foundation this week announced a new competition designed to find the best solutions available to fighting poverty.
Robin Hood has raised $19-million to get the competition off the ground and plans soon to announce the specific goal of the first contest, which might focus on curbing homelessness or improving education or other issues that contribute to poverty.
[Editor's note: The following paragraph has been revised for accuracy.] The goal is to reward new ideas and programs that Robin Hood will test in New York. After a new program has been running for a certain amount of time, a review committee of officials from both foundations will evaluate it and award the prize if…
May 2, 2012, 2:44 pm
Grant makers need to get a lot better at speaking out about social problems and telling their stories, said speakers at Tuesday’s closing session of the Council on Foundations annual meeting in Los Angeles.
In a session that was designed to resemble a form of speed dating—experts had just five minutes to sum up what was wrong with philanthropy—Andy Goodman, a marketing consultant to charities and foundations, criticized foundations for focusing too much on numbers and data. None of that matters if the people a foundation wants to reach are not open to what the data show, he said.
“All the data in the world is not going to change people’s minds,” said Mr. Goodman. “If you want to change what people think and if you want to create change, the first thing you need to do is change the story in their heads.”
Emmett Carson of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, chided…
May 1, 2012, 9:22 am
Foundations have been slow to respond to the growing needs of the men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, said speakers at a session Monday of the Council on Foundations.
One reason is that so few Americans—including those who work at foundations and charities—have a connection to service members.
But grant makers could find much to do to support military families, many of whom struggle under the crushing weight of problems that result from multiple deployments such as broken marriages, domestic abuse, unemployment, mental-health issues, and, increasingly, suicide.
Unlike service members in past wars, this generation’s veterans are less inclined to seek help through formal channels like the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs and instead go online to seek information from other sources, said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq …
April 30, 2012, 11:15 am
Solving society’s problems isn’t always the biggest issue new foundation leaders face. In some cases, it’s changing a foundation’s culture so it can tackle the challenge ahead, said speakers gathered at the Council on Foundations annual conference Sunday in Los Angeles.
As one veteran told Kevin Walker to recognize when he took over as head of the Northwest Area Foundation, no matter how smart a new strategy a foundation chief wants to put in place, he or she must realize “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Sandra Hernández, chief executive of the San Francisco Foundation, said the best way to get to know an organization’s culture is to listen to employees. Walk around the organization and talk to people. Eat in the kitchen once in a while, she suggests, and get to work understanding the ways a new chief executive’s lack of knowledge could harm the organization.
For Ms. Hern…
April 30, 2012, 9:33 am
As the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the riots that engulfed Los Angeles, grant makers say the biggest lesson the tragedy taught them about responding to catastrophe is that collaboration with governments, businesses, and other nonprofits matters more than anything else.
As 1,300 grant makers gathered in the city to start their annual meeting Sunday, they examined what foundations can do better as cities erupt in crises such natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the Gulf Coast or the damage the recession wracked on Detroit, or the racial tensions that inflamed this city.
In Los Angeles, one reason the city has grown stronger since the riots, said Manuel Pastor, a professor at University of Southern California, is that much of the Los Angeles philanthropy world joined together with local government, neighborhood, and business leaders to find ways to help…
March 19, 2012, 1:08 pm
Editor’s note: The Gates Foundation says the opening of an earlier version of this article, based on a New York Times article, incorrectly stated that the philanthropy had instituted a ban on whispering in its offices. For more on the Times‘ response, see reporting by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Chronicle has revised the headline and opening to reflect the information provided by the Gates Foundation official, Chris Williams, who says “Gates Foundation employees are free to speak as softly or as loudly as they’d like in our office space.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation finds that its new $500-million Seattle headquarters is often too quiet, The New York Times reports.
That is one of the challenges in finding the right mix of both open and closed spaces for employees at the new headquarters, the newspaper said in a special report examining the 21st-century work …
March 19, 2012, 12:01 am
The telecommunications giant AT&T today announced that it is committing $250-million over five years to expand its program aimed at helping more students graduate from high school and preparing them for college and careers. The program, called AT&T Aspire, was started in 2008.
The expanded effort has three components.
* Technology. The corporation will sponsor contests for mobile-application developers to foster the best solutions to problems in the education system. It will also support projects to incorporate computer-game features, social media, and other platforms into education programs.
* Career skills. The company’s mentor program will pair AT&T employees with high-school students who are at risk of dropping out and expand its partnership with Junior Achievement to helps students learn skills they will need in jobs and adult life.
* Math and science. AT&T also plans…
October 14, 2011, 11:09 am
A nonprofit that organizes young wealthy people to work for social change has started a Web site featuring young people who are pledging solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who are advocating for increased taxes for the wealthy, and more equitable tax laws.
The site, produced by the nonprofit Resource Generation, includes photographs of people holding up signs that say they were born into wealth, and a message about their beliefs that wealthy people should pay higher taxes, or other like-minded messages. The signs all end with the slogan, “I am the 1 percent. I stand with the 99 percent.”
The site is calling itself, “We Are the One Percent,” to play off a similar site called “We Are the 99 Percent,” which was created by the Occupy Wall Street protesters and displays photographs and messages from working people who have struggled in the current economy.
June 8, 2011, 8:25 am
The Giving Pledge has inspired yet another pledge for big donors: Today more than 60 of the country’s foundations have signed Philanthropy’s Promise, a pledge to channel a majority of their grant money to needy people as well as to advocacy efforts and projects that encourage citizens to get involved in their communities.
The pledge was circulated by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which kicked off a controversy several years ago when it published a report that outlined several standards for foundations, including that they should give at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to help the poor and other disadvantaged people.
But now a number of foundations are agreeing to follow those…