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News

Rockefeller Foundation to Invest $65M in Low-Wage Workers

On February 25, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a new campaign aimed at lifting marginalized communities out of poverty. To achieve this objective, the Foundation is investing $65 million into programs that will help 10 million U.S. workers and their families meet their basic needs.

“Far too many people work hard and play by the rules, but the American Dream feels more out of reach than ever before—and for many marginalized communities, it was hardly accessible to begin with,” said Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah. “Over our 106-year history, The Rockefeller Foundation has stepped up during our country’s most critical moments. To meet the moment today and going forward, we have to fight on every front to expand opportunity for America’s working families.”

According to the Foundation, more than 44 million working households in the U.S. struggle to pay their bills each month. As part of its investment strategy, the Foundation is launching the U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative, which will focus on expanding and modernizing economic policies like the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), two of the most effective tools for lifting families out of poverty.

The Initiative will also focus on encouraging public-private partnerships to invest in “Opportunity Zones” as part of a new tax policy designed to spur economic growth in distressed communities. Efforts are currently underway in the following areas: Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Dallas, TX, Louisville, KY, Miami, FL, Newark, NJ, New Orleans, LA, Norfolk, VA, Pittsburgh, PA, Oakland, CA., Seattle, WA, St. Louis, MO, and Washington D.C.

“There is no investment in America that gets a better ROI than investment in an equitable future for America’s workers,” said Otis Rolley, managing director and acting senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative. “Our team hit the ground running and are already supporting proven economic policies and promoting grassroots partnerships to spur greater investment in low-wage workers and low-income communities all across the country.”

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News

USAID and UC Davis Launch Rural Poverty Research Program

The University of California, Davis, has introduced a new research program aimed at eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. The program, called Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR), is being funded by a five-year grant of up to $30 million from USAID.

“USAID’s investment in this new Feed the Future Innovation Lab will expand our ability to work with communities and countries that face the greatest risks in today’s dynamic world,” said Gregory Collins, USAID Resilience Coordinator and deputy assistant administrator in the USAID Bureau for Food Security. “By drawing on the innovation and research expertise at UC Davis, this lab will accelerate opportunities for people in vulnerable, crisis-prone areas of the world and enable many more families to escape the grip of hunger and poverty for good.”

The program will focus on the root causes of poverty, with an emphasis on the risks posed by disasters such as droughts, floods, and wars.

“As global development efforts continue to improve, we still see humanitarian disasters that strip rural families and communities of hard-won gains,” said Michael Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis and director of the MRR Innovation Lab. “We will provide needed evidence on how to accelerate those gains and to ensure they stick.”

The objective is to develop resilience within these communities so that families are equipped with the skills and resources needed in order to persevere in times of hardship. Researchers are also hoping that the information gleaned from this study can be applied to U.S. farms and reduce the cost of foreign aid.

“We have an opportunity right now to build toward a new Green Revolution,” said Carter. “Our new Innovation Lab will join a global community of researchers, governments and private sector partners all working diligently to find better ways to promote prosperity and resilience for all families.”

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Donation

New Gates Foundation Initiative Will Address Poverty

In his endless quest to donate his money almost as fast as he makes it, Bill Gates has announced another philanthropic project. This time, he is taking on systemic poverty.

On Thursday, May 3rd, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that between now and 2022, they intend to spend $158 million on a variety of initiatives, from data collection and research to funding activism and lobbying.

The foundation’s work will be guided by the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, which is housed within the liberal-leaning think tank the Urban Institute. The organization has spent the past two years crafting plans to address systemic inequality in actionable ways. Their solutions involve both businesses and governments.

The money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (to date, the largest private charity organization in the world) will help turn ideas and plans into practicable projects.

“Poverty is like education, where there’s not enough philanthropic resources to take on responsibility, but if you can show how to have a lot more impact, then the policies will benefit from that,” Bill Gates told the Associated Press earlier this year.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose original goals were to improve the quality of education in the U.S. and the world, has expanded its focus to help underserved students outside the classroom as well. This will surely result in a more impactful outcome, given that poverty and education are closely related. It is, after all, hard to do homework if the lights are shut off. But poverty also goes beyond basic survival necessities. In today’s technological age, having access to a computer with internet access is an absolute must.

Over the course of the next few months, it will be exciting to see the difference that this donation will make in the lives of children.

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News

Study Finds Differences in How Economic Groups Donate

A new study suggests that charitable giving is closely tied to how people see themselves. For example, higher income individuals tend to give to charities when they are asked in a way that appeals to their self-concept of independence and self-reliance. Lower income individuals, however, give based on their perception of being part of a community and social connection.

The study, performed by psychologists Ashley Whillans, Eugene Caruso, and Elizabeth Dunn, looked at this phenomenon over the course of three experiments.

In the first experiment, participants were sent to the website for an organization called The Life You Can Save, which focuses on ending extreme poverty. Visitors were asked to participate in a survey in exchange for a complimentary book. Half of the 185 participants (58% of whom were female) read an “agentic” appeal for donations that emphasized the organization as one that focuses on what an individual can do to reduce poverty. The other 50% read a more “communal” appeal that focused on what “all of us together can do to reduce poverty.”

Wealthier participants—those earning $90,000 a year or more—were more likely to click to donate after reading the agentic appeal, while lower income participants—those making $40,000 or less a year—were more likely to donate after experiencing the communal appeal. Other elements like gender, ethnicity, and age made no difference.

The theory behind these results is that wealthier individuals see themselves as having more personal control and less need to rely on others. Those with lower incomes, on the other hand, rely more on other people. So when charitable organizations strategize their copy based on these ideas, they can potentially get more donations from either group.

While this particular study is too small for sweeping generalizations, it is backed up to a certain extent by previous studies, including one from 2010. That study, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that, despite their own financial hardship, lower income individuals were more generous, charitable, trusting, and helpful than their upper class counterparts. The study authors suggested that this was because lower income donors have a greater commitment to the sort of mentality that leads to involvement with charity, such as egalitarian values and compassion.

It’s too early to determine definitive conclusions based on this small amount of data, but it’s still valuable in the sense that it gives charities something to consider when deciding how they want to approach potential donors.

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News Resources

Ending Poverty Should Be One of Society’s Primary Concerns

Psychiatric and pediatric researchers have been arguing for some time now that poverty has a variety of negative impacts on children. Now, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics in July brings those arguments into greater focus. According to the study, and an accompanying editorial, living in poverty can have serious effects on the development of children’s brains.

Children living in poverty, which includes about 22% of all American children, can face lifelong learning disabilities, limitations on their ability to cope with stress, and depression. Developmental lags in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain can result in a 20% gap in educational achievement, most often seen in lower test scores.

The good news, though, is that these problems can be mitigated, somewhat, by nurturing parents. Parents who are taught nurturing skills, especially those who live below the poverty line, can help to offset the problems that their children will face. But those problems can’t be done away with through nurturing.

22% of American children grow up in poverty, in what is probably the most affluent nation in the world, and that’s frankly disgusting. What’s worse, is that as those children lag behind their wealthier peers, they’re going to have a harder time in school, they will be less likely to go to college, and more likely to end up with lower paying jobs. The negative effects of poverty make it harder to escape poverty. And when those children grow up and have kids of their own? Their kids grow up in poverty as well.

When you’re looking for a charity to help out, consider those that are focused on alleviating or eradicating poverty. Look for charities that help homeless people, or underprivileged families. Look for non-profits who put their donations to use helping to build and support schools, or to help feed hungry children and their families. Help those groups that advocate for political change to help people who are struggling to make ends meet. Helping poor children can help their children, and their children’s children.

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Profiles

J.K. Rowling Profile

J.K. Rowling
Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

J.K. Rowling’s story is one filled with strife and struggle and ending with stunning success. She’s someone we look to for inspiration when it comes to overcoming hardships and proving that hard work really does pay off. She is best known for authoring the renowned Harry Potter series, which propelled her from poverty into fame and fortune. But that’s not why we’re profiling her.

You see, J.K. Rowling gained billionaire status from the Harry Potter franchise’s success. As of 2011, she was estimated to be worth about $1 billion, enough to put her on the Forbes list of richest people in the world. But last year she lost that status—and not because of mismanagement.

J.K. Rowling is no longer a billionaire—because she donated so much money to charity. In 2011, she gave away about 16% of her net worth, or $160 million dollars. Perhaps it’s the fact that Rowling knows exactly what it’s like to be poverty stricken—she lived off of welfare at one point—that makes her more likely to give her wealth away.

When she spoke at Harvard’s commencement in 2008, she addressed poverty, saying that it “is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. It means a thousand petty humiliations and hardship.”

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Organizations Profiles Resources

Hunger in America Growing

Feeding America
IMG: via feedingamerica.org

According to Feeding America, the United States has many more hungry citizens than it used to. The nonprofit organization is now feeding about 50% more people than it did in 2006, and though more people have stepped up to help, there are still far too many hungry families in the nation.

Today, about 1 in 6 Americans lives in a food-insecure household. “Food security” is defined as having healthy food available and accessible. Among children, 1 in 5 lives in a food insecure household. Not having access to proper nutrition causes more than just hunger; it can also contribute to chronic diseases, more aggression and anxiety, and inhibited development of social skills.

According to a poll by Gallup, every single county in the U.S. contains food-insecure families. In 2012, about 18.2% of Americans didn’t always have enough money for food. In Mississippi, Alabama, and Delaware that number is greater than 22%. Twelve other states, many in the South, that percentage is between 20% and 22%.

Fifteen percent of Americans live in poverty. That’s nearly 1 in every 6 people. One in 8 Americans is reliant on Feeding America to provide enough food and groceries to survive on. And that number keeps going up. Pantries, kitchens, shelters, and other organizations that work in conjunction with Feeding America have all seen increases in the number of people needing assistance.

Currently, about 60% of food-insecure households participate in federal food assistance programs, and those numbers are up as well. The number of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is up to 40.3 million from 20 million in 1990; the National School Lunch Program is up to 31.7 million from 24.1 million; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is up to 9.2 million from 4.5 million.

Feeding American currently provides food and groceries to some 37 million people every year, but many more still need assistance. It costs about $1 to buy 8 meals for one man, woman, or child. That means that an entire family can be fed for a month from just $45, six months for $270, and one year for $540.

Those interested in helping can also get involved by working at food pantries, transporting food to charitable organizations, participating in virtual or actual food drives, or volunteering for a local Kids Café program.

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Organizations Resources

Can Philanthropy Save the World?

 

bill gates
IMG: 3777190317 / Shutterstock.com

Last week, Bill Gates and Carlos Slim Helu joined forces to support the opening of the new International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. The two men are among the wealthiest people in the world, and though they came together on this occasion they have opposing viewpoints when it comes to philanthropy as a whole.

Bill Gates, who we have previously profiled, is famed for his generosity through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which donates about $4 billion each year. He also founded The Giving Pledge in an effort to recruit other wealthy individuals to give the majority of their wealth away to charity.

Slim, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that philanthropy has the power to solve problems permanently—only create dependence. “We have seen donations for 100 years,” he said in an interview with The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “We have seen thousands of people working in nonprofits, and the problems and poverty are bigger. They have not solved anything.”

That’s not to say Slim doesn’t give any of his wealth away—he’s just more careful about it. He chooses environmental, health, and educational programs while avoiding those that advocate for stronger democracy or civic participation. Like Gates, he has his own foundation, the Carlos Slim Foundation, and has funded other foundations as well.

Slim believes that the key to fighting poverty is in job creation and through social initiatives rather than charitable giving. He says the responsibility of the wealthy businessman is to keep building their wealth and thereby fight poverty through means that will promote independence rather than dependence.

Philanthropy comes in many forms. Gates and Slim may have different approaches, but certainly both men are charitable in their own ways. Can charitable giving as approached by Bill Gates save the world from poverty and hunger? Or ought we take a more critical view of giving and fall in line with Slim’s view?