What the Failures of Philanthropy Can Teach Us

By Sheridan Wilbur

As much as we hate to admit mistakes, errors are crucial to projecting a more successful future.

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John Dewey, the early educational reformer of the 20th century, said it best: “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”  

Dewey understood an uncomfortable truth: failure teaches more than a lifetime of success ever could. Within philanthropy, it is common to share stories of how individuals and companies are succeeding; how they are making social and environmental changes to impact the lives of others, but it’s less common to hear about their pitfalls. It’s encouraging to read about corporations like Walmart and Kroger conquering world hunger through philanthropy when capitalism seems to blame, but it’s equally as important to recognize when money is going to waste.  

Many times, philanthropic efforts are lost in tax deductions, salaries, operating costs and most significantly, public shame. In order to make philanthropy truly about redistributing and allocating money, and improving the livelihoods of less fortunate, it is critical that the stigma of failure is removed. Just like a science experiment, diagnostics must be taken place and results need to be published after exposing a new variable to an environment.  The new variable is a financial investment, and the funds must be analyzed to determine the impact the aid had, and how to improve the project in the future.

Walmart donated over 421 million pounds of food in the past year and over 4.5% of its pre-tax profits to help combat hunger, but there are many shortcomings from philanthropic initiatives that are not as inspiring.  

Between 1982 and 1988, the Rockefeller Foundation worked to educate minorities and single parents and propel future employment by investing over $3,000 per participant in their welfare-to-work program. Unfortunately, after 30 months of job training and counseling, Rockefeller concluded that the impact was immeasurable.  

Oprah’s philanthropic initiative from 1994 is another example of failed philanthropic aid. She donated over $3 million dollars in pursuit to move over 100 families out of public housing and off welfare in Chicago, but only 3 out of 30,000 families that applied successfully completed the program.  

The Rockefeller Foundation and Oprah both share disheartening results, but there is a huge difference between their initiatives – the documentation and understanding of their shortcomings.  The Rockefeller Foundation failed to reduce welfare dependency and enhance self-sufficiency under the Minority Female Single Parent program (MFSP), but they spent an enormous amount of time evaluating their initiative to understand what went wrong.  

Rockefeller’s failure seems shameful to philanthropy at first, as well as financially burdening, but it ended up being very beneficial and cost effective.  Rockefeller tracked the progress on the MFSP program and recognized failed outcomes and where they went wrong before engaging in a similar initiative.  They were able to prevent another mistake in grant allocation by studying the diagnostics and recognizing why the welfare-to-work program busted.  

On the other hand, Oprah neglected to perform data analytics, measure the impact and evaluate the shortcomings to her welfare project. Her program, Families for a Better Life, disconnected their phone lines, reported no public record of the program and didn’t conduct any outside evaluations. As a result, little is understood on why her plan didn’t succeed and it is likely that a similar failure will happen again.

Philanthropy fails when there is not an open line of communication between the donor and recipient, and grant money is allocated to the wrong people or to the wrong places. Aid can get disproportionately spent in operating costs for clergy or in theoretical research that ends up serving the rich more tax relief, and the poor less resources. If donors don’t know where the funds should go, and what methods work best, philanthropy can become a dangerous method of perpetuating inequality, rather than closing the gap between the rich and poor.  

Therefore, it is important that foundations like Rockefeller or philanthropists like Oprah cultivate open dialogue to understand what the stakeholder wants alongside what historically works best, to make the most meaningful impact.

It’s never glamorous to highlight failed projects, but it is important to incorporate an evaluation process and diagnostic test to save foundations like Rockefeller, or wealthy donors like Oprah, time and money.  ‘Social impact’ is harder to measure than gross sales for the quarter, but important to understand what difference the money is making to ensure it is leading to more opportunities for the disadvantaged.  

Failure is the best teacher, and flunked initiatives need to be studied and published, just as often as solutions are taking front page headlines. If philanthropists can create an environment for honest and productive conversation, there will be less money wasted and more knowledge shared.

Philanthropy has the power to address social problems in a meaningful way, but reports of these efforts must be published, especially when they fall short.

 

NGO Spotlight: BiblioWorks

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BiblioWorks: strengthening communities through literacy and education

BiblioWorks is a nonprofit that promotes literacy and education in Bolivia. Their mission is to provide communities in need with tools and resources to develop sustainable literacy and educational programs through schools, libraries, and cultural institutions.

BiblioWorks was created in 2005 by a former American Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, Megan Sherar, and her brother. They fell in love with the country and decided to address the inadequate infrastructure interfering with Bolivia’s access to some of the most critical things on earth: literacy and education. Literacy and education are the first steps towards progress for every community in every country around the world.

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Today, this non-profit organization is managed in Bolivia by a team of dedicated Bolivians who understand the needs of both the organization and each individual library. The local team also helps BiblioWorks stay connected with the various communities to make the libraries lively and useful; they work closely with the local authorities to focus on the needs that people express in every community in which they intervene. After more than ten years of dedication, BiblioWorks is proud to run a network of fourteen libraries in the city of Sucre and in the surrounding countryside.

BiblioWorks is convinced that literacy and education are best spread by a fruitful exchange among cultures, identities, and origins; and therefore welcome volunteers from all across the world to work with them in their varying libraries. It is a great way for people to share their differences and learn from one another. When a volunteer comes from another country, their stay in Bolivia is an opportunity to know more about a new culture and learn Spanish as well. It is also an amazing chance for the children to be confronted with diversity.

Volunteers play a great role and make a direct and personal impact on the libraries theyimage.do
work with. For example, if a volunteer has some dance skills, they can set up a dance workshop. Additionally, as most of the volunteers are fluent in English they can provide the kids with basic English lessons. Often, what is considered simple or usual for a volunteer can have a great value for a child and can genuinely impact their lives. When volunteers come from abroad to BiblioWorks’ libraries, everyone benefits from the experience.

The BiblioWorks libraries would not exist without the plurality of actors that participate in the life of their organization; from the board in the United States to the team in Bolivia, from the volunteers coming from across the globe to the kids attending the libraries.

If you are interested in donating to BiblioWorks or participating in a volunteer trip to Bolivia, search for them on UniversalGiving.

Five things that make for satisfying work

Here is a guest blog post by Mallen Baker about the things people need in a job in order to feel satisfied with their work. 

Many years ago, I made the acquaintance of Pete Brown who, I discovered after some time, was the author of a book called ‘Smallcreep’s Day’ published over 50 years ago in 1965.

It was the story of a man who works in a factory. And every day of his long existence he has been stuck in one place making one particular component for some unknown machinery.

One day he decides he wants to actually know what is the final product he’s to which he’s been contributing all these years. So he sets out on a journey into the depths of the factory to find out – a journey which becomes surreal and awful in equal measure.

It must have been one of the earliest reflections in popular culture of something that has become a widely understood truth. We seek meaning in what we do, and achieve much greater satisfaction if we find it.

For me at the time – well before I’d discovered the world of work for myself – it was an early influence that whatever I did needed to have a wider purpose. And that was long before it had become a buzzword in management circles, or even counted as a relevant factor at all.

But we’re now in a significantly changed world – and many people that are coming into the workforce say that they want satisfying, meaningful, work. It’s rather what the millennial generation – rightly or wrongly – has become famous for.

But largely they remain as unfulfilled as Smallcreep himself. The most recent Gallup global survey found that only 13% of workers worldwide are engaged in their work, committed to their jobs and making a positive contribution.

The best bosses give people the autonomy to fix the problems when they see them
So what have we learned in the intervening decades about what makes for meaningful, engaging work? How hard would it be to make it the norm, rather than the exception?

Here are a few things. You can probably think of others.

1. Sufficient challenge and complexity. Many of the jobs such as those carried out by the Smallcreep character that involved the pulling of a lever, over and over again – those jobs have been automated. But mindless work still exists. It may be more efficient to have different workers doing one action over and over, but you get more satisfied and motivated workers if they do a more complex range of actions to create something significant.

It was the movement for quality that created so many awful dreary jobs. Because it was intuitively easier to reduce defects if you got people to do one thing, before passing it on to the next person.

The other way to reduce defects – to make people into skilled craftsmen who take a pride in their work – that was considered to be less efficient. Increasingly, we’re seeing that assumption to have been a mistake on anything but the purely mechanistic level.

2. Growing skill and capacity over time. We always want to feel like we’re making progress. If we have a craft and we know that we’re getting better and better over time, then it gives a sense of momentum and mastery.

Interestingly, there may be some evidence that we’re kidding ourselves. Psychologist and author K. Anders Ericsson suggests that once people in most professions reach “acceptable performance and automaticity” they don’t improve further regardless of how many years they practice. Indeed, it can actually go the other way.

The key to getting better is to engage in proper ‘deliberate practice’ – pushing yourself to do things that are currently outside your comfort zone. Employers – for all that they will push you to do things faster – generally don’t give you work specifically to challenge and develop you. But if they did, the evidence suggests they would see real benefits.

3. The power to make decisions. If you know the mission and the intended end goal, then you’re empowered to make decisions along the way to help achieve that goal. If your job is the equivalent of ‘pull that lever’ then even if it turns out to be the wrong thing to do, you’ll keep doing it because you have no permission to take the initiative.

Good bosses have often found value in “going to the shop floor” to talk to people about how things really are. Because those are the people that see the things that go to waste, the things that aren’t working, the stages where mistakes are made.

The best bosses give people the autonomy to fix the problems when they see them. And to want to do so because they feel like they own the process and the outcome.

4. Recognition and reward. It is most satisfying when you see a direct link between the amount of effort you put in, and the amount of recognition and reward that comes your way as a result. It’s a delicate thing. Praise when you know it’s not been earned can be as demotivating as the absence of recognition when you’ve made a real difference.

And the ultimate killer is when you have ‘free riders’ – people that add to your burden because they don’t pull their weight and yet they share in the credit regardless.

5. Being part of a wider social purpose. Just about any product or service, if it helps real people to solve real problems, can be described in terms of the positive difference it makes to the world. And nothing is more motivating than if the achievement of that social purpose is an explicit part of the process.
On that last one, ‘maverick’ boss Ricardo Semler was once asked how you could identify such purpose for some of the humblest of service workers – such as school dinner ladies.

But you don’t get more important than that, he protested. These people have in their hands the health and wellbeing of some of the great people of tomorrow. And, he might have added, good nutrition has been shown to assist in how well young people are educated.

Smallcreep would surely have settled for that.

Check out the original blog post on Mallan Baker’s respectful business blog.

Seven Ways to Introduce Innovation Into Your Company

This is a guest post by Steven L. Blue about how to effectively make employees comfortable with innovation. 

The reason innovations fail is not because of technology. It’s never about the technology. Innovations fail because of people. The people who might employ a new technology may not be sold on it. Or they might be afraid of it. Or they might feel threatened by. Welcome to the dark side of innovation.

However, the biggest threat to a new innovation your company is trying to develop will be your own people. This threat comes in one of several forms, and sometimes in all of them. First, your people may want to cling to the old tried and true. As false as it is, tried and true gives people comfort. Or they may not want to cannibalize an existing product with a newer technology. Often your people will feel threatened by a new innovation because they think it will outdate their skills and therefore their jobs.

When you are introducing innovation into your company, you have to neutralize these threats. Here is seven ways to introduce innovation into your company:

1. Make innovation a top priority. Don’t let it be an activity that people should pay attention to “after they get the real work done.” Innovation is the real work.

2. Put your money where your mouth is. Promote people who champion your innovation efforts. Incentive people who support the effort. Make innovation a key component of performance evaluations. If people aren’t supporting the effort, make that a reason for possible termination. Create the time and physical space for people to gather and brainstorm ideas. Set key goals for the number of ideas to be generated. Support the best ideas with funding.

3. Be prepared to coach people who are against the effort. Be ready to make organization changes. That means moving people out of the organization or down in the organization if you feel they threaten the effort. Watch out especially for the “not invented here” syndrome.

4. Remember the 3 C’s of effective communications: Clear, compelling, and convincing. Be very clear in communicating your expectations. Paint a compelling picture of what happens to the company if you don’t innovate (read: bad things), and all the good things that will happen when the innovation efforts are successful. And be convincing as to why innovation is so important. You don’t have to look very far to find examples of companies that failed to innovate to use as examples. Just look at the case of Kodak. They knew long before it happened that digital was on the way in and print was on the way out. Kodak didn’t fail because they didn’t know how to innovate to meet that threat. They failed because they didn’t want to. And you can use a great example of an old line company that innovated its way out of death’s door. Encyclopedia Britannica also saw the digital revolution coming. But unlike Kodak they chose to innovate by going entirely digital. Now Britannica’s digital sales are better than their print sales ever were. And where are their print sales? Gone. And so would the company if it hadn’t innovated. You have to paint both sides of the “why are we doing this?” picture. I like to use what I call the El Dorado/El Chapo model. If we innovate we are on the road to El Dorado, if we don’t, we are on the road to El Chapo.

5. Hire or contract the resources needed to innovate. Remember, your own people won’t know what they don’t know. Fresh, new ideas from outside the organization will be needed.

6. Make the commitment to your people that they will be trained in the new innovations the organization chooses to adopt. Don’t let them think your plan is “in with the new and out with the old”; otherwise they are sure to be against it.

7. Regularly review progress in the innovations efforts. This needs to be done by the CEO so the organization knows this is a serious effort. Stay very close to the effort so you will know when it starts to break down. And when it does (not if, because it will from time to time), take action fast.

Always remember innovation never fails because of technology. It fails because of people. People who aren’t convinced it is necessary. People who are threatened by it. People who long for yesterday instead of tomorrow. Follow these seven steps and ensure your company’s innovations don’t fall flat.

Check out the original blog post on CSRwire!

Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

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We had the chance to sit down with Mark Horoszowski, CEO and co-founders of MovingWorlds, to learn more about the “Experteering” movement, and share some best practice for anybody interested in volunteering overseas.

Mark Horoszowski

First… Why do people volunteer their skills abroad?

We see people go for any number of reasons. Graduate students looking for practical experience, young professionals looking to gain international exposure, career switchers looking for something new, and early retirees looking to give back are a few of the ones we hear the most common, but we’ve also seen people go Experteering in their country of origin to reconnect with their culture, and travelers do it as a way to gain a more immersive experience.

The common thing here is that there is shared value – people recognize that they can help, but that they can also benefit in the process. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to be a little selfish in their service.

 

What are the most common types of skills-based volunteer projects overseas that you call “Experteering”?

We typically see people enter one of the following project categories:

 

Training: Leading one-on-one and one-to-many sessions with an organization or group organizations to help teach a specific skill or tool. These are typically 1 – 4 weeks long.

 

Doing: Supporting an organization with a specific task that has a clear deliverable, like designing a new website, developing a marketing plan, creating an engineering schematic, or another skills-based project. These are typically 2 – 8 weeks.

 

Consulting: Immersing yourself in a specific opportunity or challenge area to propose a clear plan of action to the organization to help them grow, giving yourself enough time to learn community and cultural contexts. Typical length of 3 – 12 weeks.

 

Team member: Become a core team member for a specific length of time for a specific business area, like marketing, operations, engineering, etc. Typical length of 12 + weeks.

 

What kind of people can go Experteering?

Anybody, as long as they have demonstrable experience in a specific area. We’ve had videographers still in college go work on projects, and we’ve also helped place retired accountants.

 

What are 5 of the most popular do’s and dont’s of international volunteering?

  1. Do spend adequate time planning. We have an online training to help people prepare mentally for this type of trip.
  2. Do build a partnership with your hosting organization and team
  3. Do spend a lot of time trying to understand the cultural context of the country AND organization you’re going to support
  4. Do think about the LONG TERM impact. At MovingWorlds, we say that success happens one year after you leave… focus on developing the skills and competencies of others.
  5. Do take time to reflect on your experience. In fact, we recommend people engage a mentor or coach as part of their experience and take time to set goals, document their trip, and reflect on it once they return home.

 

  1. Don’t go in there and think you have the answers. If you want to help someone, shut-up and listen.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of cultural differences, and how they affect communication.
  3. Don’t start without a plan. The number one reason trips don’t go well is because people don’t take adequate time to plan
  4. Don’t go before you know. If you haven’t talked to the people you’ll be volunteering abroad with, don’t buy a plane ticket
  5. Don’t rush it – this is an experience of a lifetime. Be picky about the organization you volunteer with and spend time planning to truly make sure it’s a transformative experience for all parties.

 

We have some other great tips in this article from Why Dev.

 

Why do many organizations charge you to volunteer overseas, and why is MovingWorlds different?

Many organizations charge you to volunteer because it’s how they make money. In other words, they’re not after your skills or know-how, they are after your dollars. In exchange, they can give you an interesting experience. But sometimes, this creates really bad incentives and major ethical dilemmas.

 

At MovingWorlds, we do things differently – our organizations never charge you to volunteer because they really need your skills. Often times, they even give you a free place to live while you’re overseas. One article about us said it best, “Voluntourism can’t solve real problems, that’s where Experteers come in”. Because of the care and attention we provide every match, we do charge a membership fee – fully guaranteed and refundable – so that we can support you in finding a project that matches your real skills. Beyond helping you find a project, we walk you through a complete process to help you make a real impact and provide plenty of resources to equip you for a life-enriching trip.

 

You spent a year traveling and volunteering around the world before MovingWorlds was even an idea… what’s one piece of more personal advice you would give to anybody volunteering overseas?

 

Be humble. Even if you’re going to volunteer your skills and think you’re an expert, be ridiculously humble. The cultural differences you’ll be working in are so vast that you’ll find it challenging to actually be impactful if you don’t embrace that. And not only that, but there is so much to learn from people you go Experteering with… provided you have an open mind.

70 Experts Share Their Best Advocacy Planning, Strategy, Skills and Training Tips

Learn from seventy great minds including our CEO Pamela Hawley about advocacy advice! Click here to read the original article on Connectivity.

By Ann Dermody

How would you like to have your own personal government relations or advocacy mentor on speed dial?

Even, if you’d been in the business for years?

Well, we’re about to give you the next best thing.

We conducted 70, (yes, 70!) interviews with some of the leading minds in the worlds of government relations, nonprofit, advocacy, public policy, and fundraising, and asked them four pertinent questions:

  • What advocacy skill have I learned over time, or do I wish I had my first day on the job?
  • Having tried a bunch, the best advocacy strategy I rely on is …?
  • When I’m planning an advocacy campaign, the first thing I always do is … 
  •  What would be the most useful advocacy training?

Just FYI, we asked them a bunch of other questions too, and we’ll give you the full picture of what they had to say soon (including epic campaign fails and successes) – but more of that good stuff later.

For now, here’s a taster of some of the best advocacy strategies, tips and tricks they’ve learned from many collective years toiling in the world of legislation and advocacy.

And when you’ve finished reading, don’t forget to download our great free eBook: The Advocacy Planning, Strategy and Skills Guide.

Finally, to everyone who took part, a big thank you!

And to everyone reading, this is one you’ll want to bookmark!

 

What’s the greatest advocacy skill I’ve learned over time, or what advocacy skill do I wish I had had the first day on the job?

A better understanding of how advocates use social media. In my job, I’m constantly checking Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds for the latest news and updates on client campaigns, but most advocates don’t have the time to stay this connected. Many advocates favor one channel over the other, and are often not checking their social media feed until later in the evening or on the weekends. So, learning how to communicate more effectively to my audience has been critical to ensuring a successful campaign. – Carolyn Weems, VP, The Herald Group

“Knowing when to be persistent and realizing that if your efforts for change do not succeed this year, there is always next year.” – Frank Harris, Director of State Government Affairs, MADD

I didn’t have an appreciation for the value of relationships. When you work on issues, you think ‘policy’ — which is important — but I didn’t realize or appreciate how important it is to not only have the right message, but to have the right messenger. You can be more acutely effective with the right messenger. – Chip Felkel, CEO of Rap Index

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Enthusiasm. If you are passionate about what you do, they will listen. People want to be around people who love what they do. Most people these days want to find a driving purpose for their life. So even if your topic isn’t their immediate interest, your enthusiasm might just persuade them to get involved! – Pamela Hawley, CEO, Universal Giving

I wish I could have had the public speaking presence I have had to develop over many years in my advocacy work. – Meredith Nethercutt, Senior Associate Member Advocacy, SHRM

Networking: specifically, knowing how to strike up a conversation with a stranger or butt into the middle of a conversation between three or four people. – David L. Rosen, Press Officer, Regulatory Affairs, Public Citizen and Founder of First Person Politics

… social media experience. Members of Congress love to use social media and it can be an incredibly powerful and engaging tool. We now recommend social media strategies to all of our clients as part of their overall advocacy initiative.” – Lincoln Clapper, Director Sales & Marketing, Prime Advocacy

“Live social video streaming didn’t exist when I started at Greenpeace, but I wish it did!” – Ryan Schleeter, Online Editor, Greenpeace USA blog

Database and email management skills. Communication to our supporters is key. Once we’ve captured their emails then it’s up to us to engage, educate and inspire. It cannot replace face-to-face interactions but it allows us to control the message, and hopefully turn the mildly interested supporter into a fully engaged advocate. – Jason Amaro, Southwest Chapter Coordinator, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 

I wish I had a better handle on logistics when I first started. Time management when juggling multiple campaigns and issues can be tough. – Mark J. Walsh, Campaign Director, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

There are a few great advocacy skills I’ve learned from my mentors over the years that I now carry with me every day.

  • Develop a solid team.
  • Be persistent, but patient
  • Issue campaigns are like marathons not sprints
  • Define the win up front. – Christine Hill, Deputy Legislative Director, Sierra Club

Listening. When you get your hands on an issue you believe in, it’s easy forget the other voices in the room. The false consensus effect can derail even the strongest campaign. People assume that one point of view is the same as everyone else’s, and too often, people build their campaign from that false consensus. I found that it is best to anchor your advocacy campaign in facts. – Gerry Gunster, CEO, Goddard Gunster

Read the full article here!

Connecting with Pamela  

It is special when two people connect and create such an exciting and mutually beneficial relationship. Here is the story of how Saumya met Pamela Hawley and became an intern at UniversalGiving. Saumya currently works virtually from India!

On the 25th of February, I get a message from my sister, Mahima on the family group chat saying, “Saum look up UniversalGiving. You might want to consider working with them.” She was at a conference at Duke University and had just met Pamela Hawley, the Founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mahima thought that Pamela was amazing. Jokingly, I asked Mahima whether she had told Pamela that she had a sister and expected the answer to be no. Instead, Mahima said, “actually I did.” I immediately went on to the UniversalGiving website and looked at all the work that the organization does, domestically and internationally and I could not wait to find a way to work with them.

My sister said that she would email Pamela, mention my name, and ask her if I could get in touch. Even though Mahima had met Pamela, I was not expecting Pamela to say yes, and I definitely was not expecting such a quick response from her. I received an enthusiastic reply to my email within minutes, saying that she would love for me to intern with UniversalGiving. She connected me with Ayuko, the operations director, for additional information about summer internships which led me to believe that I would communicate with Ayuko from there on out. However, after a few days, I received an email from Pamela connecting me with Natalia and the Development Team. Pamela also requested that I call her so that we could catch up on the weekend. Twenty-four hours later, I was on the phone with the CEO of the organization!

Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this was a possibility – that my sister would mention me to someone at Duke and a week later I would be on the phone with the CEO, ready to help her organization with research and social media! My talk with Pamela was absolutely amazing. Apart from how great it was to just speak to Pamela, it was unbelievable how enthusiastic she was about having me on the team. She was as excited as I was, and she wanted me to start working right away! What stuck with me was that this phone call was not a one-time thing. Pamela said that I had a direct line of access to her and I should never hesitate to connect with her. She loves working with the team and I think this is incredibly unique. It is not often that you get to talk to a CEO of a company who is as enthusiastic as you are about working for them.  

This has just been an incredible opportunity, not only in the way that it happened but also the speed at which this happened – not even 10 days after my sister met Pamela, I have a UniversalGiving account and I am signing an Internship Agreement with them. I am so glad that I get to work with this incredible, highly approachable and enthusiastic team!

By Saumya Varma