Education Philanthropy is Headed in a New Direction

A new survey conducted by Grantmakers for Education shows a significant shift in the education initiatives that donors are most interested in.

For the past decade, donors have primarily focused their attention on K-12 reform, which covers issues related to teacher quality, standards, and assessments. However, the latest research shows that donors are less interested in K-12 reform and more interested in areas like social and emotional learning, postsecondary and early childhood education, and equity.

“This survey data makes clear that philanthropies have, collectively, begun to redefine education giving and reform quite profoundly—directing their dollars toward new priorities and dramatically away from the more traditional K-12 issues,” said Celine Coggins, executive director of Grantmakers for Education. “Funders recognize that academic reforms alone are inadequate to the challenge of helping all students—especially disadvantaged students—succeed. They are ensuring those are paired with equity-focused, social-emotional supports that the emerging brain science shows are essential for learning.”

Equity in particular has proven to be one of the fastest growing sectors in education philanthropy. Of the 91 education donors surveyed, 75 percent said that they are committed to advancing equity for disadvantaged populations, such as racial/ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community.

“The field of education philanthropy is at an inflection point,” Coggins explained. “We have gleaned many lessons since the first administration of this survey, a decade ago. We are also seeing a loss of faith in the federal government and movement toward local problem solving to ensure all students are given the opportunities they need to be successful.”

“It is a moment that is both tumultuous and exciting for its potential,” she added. “And given the divisive political climate, it is a moment where our collective leadership has never been more necessary.”

To read the full report, click here.


Amber Heard Honored for Generous Donation to Children’s Hospital

For those who follow celebrity news, the news that Amber Heard (former wife of actor Johnny Depp as of August 2017) donated the entirety of her $7 million divorce settlement to battered women is not fresh. But on Monday, April 9th, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was the first recipient to confirm her statements to that end.

Under the hospital’s “Honor Roll of Donors,” Heard’s name is listed with the statement “On behalf of all the children and families whose lives you have impacted, and everyone at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we offer our sincere thanks.” Her name is featured in the category of $1 – $5 million donors.

The rest of the $7 million was split among various other charities that focus on preventing violence against women, reported People Magazine.

“My philanthropic efforts have always been centered around medical care, especially with women and children,” Heard told People. “Medical care always struck me as a basic human right and necessity.”

Heard, who is 23 years younger than Depp, divorced him with a restraining order and public accusations of abuse after only 15 months of marriage. For many, her immediate disposal of her divorce settlement has been taken as evidence that her accusations have merit.

“As described in the restraining order and divorce settlement, money played no role for me personally and never has, except to the extent that I could donate it to charity and, in doing so, hopefully help those less able to defend themselves,” said Heard in a statement back in August.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, one of the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, treats more than half a million pediatric patients a year and relies on donors like Heard to fund their quarter of a billion dollars in community benefits including neighborhood clinics and pro bono care for disadvantaged families. Over a century old, the hospital offers hundreds of pediatric specialties, making it invaluable to children’s health care.


The Most Costly Mistake That Charities Make

As the nonprofit sector grows increasingly competitive, charities cannot afford to make too many mistakes. Unfortunately, there’s still one mistake in particular that charities are making, and it’s costing them both donors and resources.

The mistake is inundating donors with unwanted solicitations, whether that’s in the form of snail mail, e-mails, texts, or phone calls. It’s costly because it takes up time, money, and assets and in the end it only annoys donors and makes them less likely to donate in the future.

Part of the reason it’s still so commonly committed is because once upon a time, it was considered a best practice. But it is now 2017. People live busy lives. The average American is already swamped with junk mail; the last thing they need is more spam.

Do this instead: ask donors if they would like to receive newsletters and other information pertaining to the charity. Better yet, leave a checkbox on their donation form so that they don’t feel compelled to say “yes” when asked in person.

Believe it or not, there are literally thousands of people who just want to make a one-time donation… and that’s okay. It’s unrealistic to think that sending tons of mail will convert this demographic into life-long donors. If anything, it will have the reverse effect.

Not to mention, due to technology, most donors refer to an organization’s website for all the latest news and updates. Heavily invested donors can also follow the organization on social media as a way to stay current.

In the end, if the person cares enough about the charity and the cause, they will continue to donate. It is the charity’s responsibility to ask donors whether or not they would like to receive additional news or information pertaining to the organization. It’s all about respecting the wants and desires of contributors.

Donation Organizations

3 Generous Billionaires You’ve Never Heard Of

Everyone knows who Bill Gates is. He and his wife Melinda started one of the world’s largest nonprofit organizations: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Additionally, most people are familiar with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO who vowed to put 99 percent of his shares towards good causes. He and his wife Priscilla started the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporation that is focused on expanding education, curing diseases, and promoting equality.

But there are other billionaires that are just as generous (if not more) than those listed above. Here are some of those unsung billionaire heroes who are using their fortunes to make the world a better place:

  1. George Roberts

George Roberts is an American financier who co-founded the private equity firm KKR. Roberts has put his $4.8 billion worth towards helping society’s most marginalized members attain hope and independence. As the founder of the San Francisco-based nonprofit REDF, Roberts provides resources that help homeless people and other disadvantaged groups find jobs.

  1. Manoj Bhargava

Manoj Bhargava is the founder and CEO of 5-Hour Energy. In truly honorable fashion, he promised to give 90% of his $4 billion dollar worth to charity. In 2015, he founded Billions in Change, a limited liability corporation that strives to lift people out of poverty by making clean water, renewable energy, and healthcare more accessible.

  1. Sara Blakely

Sara Blakley is the founder and CEO of women’s intimate apparel company Spanx. Over the years, she has supported numerous causes and organizations that focus on female education and entrepreneurship programs. Her net worth is estimated to be at $1.2 billion.

These stunning examples of generosity prove that the wealthy aren’t always the selfish, greedy people that they are often portrayed to be in the media. Kindness comes in all forms, both rich and poor.


Appealing to Psychological Needs Can Garner More Donations

It may seem obvious, but the way you word fundraising appeals can have a pretty big impact on the success of those appeals. According to new research, minor changes to wording can increase donations by up to 300%. But before you go and rewrite all of your appeals, there are some things you need to know.

First of all, there is no secret weapon here. The study was based on 30,000 fundraising letters sent out to people across India. 20,000 of those letters were from a cold list and the rest were from a warm list. Researchers found that seeking out donors with the same religious beliefs increased donations by 55%, or by 33% if the target is of low-income status. By slightly modifying the fundraising appeals, researchers found a variety of ways to appeal to peoples’ sympathy.

At the core of all of this seems to be the idea that putting a face on the appeal helps. Making donors aware that they will be helping real, specific people seems to draw in more donations. But donors also want to feel like they’re a part of something greater than themselves. In order to create this sense of belonging, donors have to feel aligned with the organization’s missions and goals. Organizations have to cater to these psychological needs if they want to receive more donations.

That may feel manipulative, but the fact of the matter is that pure logic does not appeal to people as much as we might like to think. Marketing, and that’s what this is, most often appeals to human emotions, because let’s face it, we’re emotional creatures first and foremost. It’s all about convincing people to back a certain idea or cause, and making them feel good about doing so. This research has shown that by actually applying psychology to fundraising efforts, these efforts can really pay off, which is especially helpful in a world with an ever increasing number of charities.


The Next Generation of Donors

The Next Generation of Donors
IMG: via Shutterstock

Where have all the donors gone?  It’s a question well worth examining since so much of the nonprofit world depends on donor support to function.  Yet, it seems that many young people are simply opting not to donate.  The question we need to ask is why.

Recently, the first of four podcast episodes aired.  It’s called “Shaping the Future of Philanthropy: Voices from Next Gen Donors.”  Just the name reminds us that, yes, there are some young donors willing to speak out.  The series thanks GrantCraft, a collaboration of services from the Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre.  Their aim is to “tap the practical wisdom of funders to increase shared knowledge in the philanthropy sector.”

That first episode looked at what “characteristics, values, and mentalities shape next generation donors, and how research was conducted to learn about this group’s giving tendencies.”

The author, Jen Bokoff, who wrote about the podcast describes herself as a millennial.  She said, “The next generation, Millennials and Generation X – 21-40 year olds – doesn’t always want to identify as such. We’ve gotten a bad rap as being lazy, narcissistic, online time-wasters with a knack for twerking and feelings of entitlement. However, like the donors interviewed for our podcast and for the related report, I am proud to identify as a member of the next generation; along with these giving peers, I am hopeful that I can help prove those stereotypes wrong.”

She goes on to say that there are a number of reasons why the younger generation has become disillusioned.  Though they have learned from past mistakes of the previous generations, they are coming of age during an economic recession, education becoming increasingly out of economic grasp for many and injustice on a global scale.  She said that we feel responsible for somehow trying to improve everything.  It’s a lot to take on.  So, many don’t know where to start.

The difference between the younger and older generations is that young people ask a lot of questions.  They want to know exactly what money is going where and how it’s being used.  If an organization balks about transparency, they probably will lose support.

Younger people also are looking for results and “improved evaluation” instead of just being happy to be thanked for the money.  Young people are pickier about what really speaks to them.  They want the organization they choose to stand for something which is fully aligned with personal beliefs and mission.

“We want to build off of the incredible contributions of past philanthropy and also apply a level of rigor and innovation to our philanthropic gifts that hasn’t previously been a part of the giving process,” Bokoff said.

Organizations Resources

A Shot at the Ivy Leagues

Ivy League
IMG: via Shutterstock

New York City is a hotbed for creative, talented minorities who may never make it out of Brooklyn.  This is a shame because everyone else could benefit from their immense talent.  The problem is that there are not enough resources to supplement ordinary schooling.

A Harvard and Stanford study that came out this year emphasized the inadequacy of how low-income students are represented at selective colleges and universities.  What it showed was that “only 34 percent of the highest-achieving high-school seniors whose families fell in the bottom quarter of income distribution – versus 78 percent in the top quarter – attended one of the country’s most selective colleges, based on a list of nearly 250 schools compiled by Barron’s.”

However, the good news is that there are scouts in New York City seeking out the best and brightest.  In 1978, Gary Simons, a teacher from the Bronx, founded Prep for Prep.  His goal was to find talented students of color and prepare them to go to private schools.  So far, hundreds of his students have gone on to law, medicine, and business schools and work at some of the most prestigious firms.

Feeling that Prep for Prep was not enough, Simons and others later founded Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, or LEDA.  Their aim was to seek out and advance the best students from public high schools from around the country regardless of race.  Yet, almost all the students come from families who earn less than $55,000 per year.

Another popular program is Sponsors for Educational Opportunities, or S.E.O., whose mission is to provide “supe­rior edu­ca­tional and career pro­grams to young peo­ple from under-­served com­mu­ni­ties to max­i­mize their oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lege and career success.”

When you look at the success rate of students who have attended programs LEDA and S.E.O., you can see why wealthy donors would want to contribute funding.  Recently Henry Kravis pledged $4 million in matching funds to S.E.O., which must have surely been a happy surprise.

The training they provide goes side-by-side with regular schooling to give exceptional students a shot at success.  S.E.O. was started by Manhattan lawyers and advertising executives over 50 years ago, yet it is still as successful as ever.

Organizations Profiles Resources

Charity Navigator Helps Donors Know Who to Support

IMG: via

Charity Navigator is a website for philanthropic people to investigate whether a charity is financially sound, has accountability and is transparent with donors.  The aim of Charity Navigator is to create a more efficient way of charitable giving, and provide a place for donors to monitor the progress of organizations they report.  The organization uses a star rating based their findings, with a four star rating as the highest possible award.  Only about 25 percent of organizations receive a four star rating, with less than 10 percent of organizations receiving the highly respected award more than two years consecutively.

In thirteen years of operation, Charity Navigator has become the top agency for reviewing charitable organizations.  Methodology not only includes the percentage of donations used directly for the cause but also the ability to sustain its programs over time.  Only seven charities have earned 12 consecutive four star ratings since the inception of the project, including the Carnegie Institute for Science, Compassion International, and Goodwill Southern California.  Four star rated charities score a 60 or above out a total score of 70 available points.  Recently, the Colon Cancer Alliance became one of the elite organizations with its third consecutive 4 star rating.  CEO Jasmine Greenamyer said they were honored by the rating, and will remain committed to bringing the best possible use of funds contributed by donors.

Charity Navigator’s website also gives users the ability to seek reputable organizations assisting in disaster relief.  By clicking on the “Hot Topics” page, visitors to the site will be shown a list of recent disasters with links to how to help.  Users can also search by categories of a cause; such as animals, the environment or education.  Overall, it is a useful site and respected organizations for anyone looking for more information on how to give smartly and effectively.