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Posts tagged ‘Giving 2.0’

Design Thinking While You Work

Charities Review Council design thinking

At the Charities Review Council Annual Forum 2014, participants engaged in design thinking exercises about disruptive philanthropy.

When I ran into a former colleague recently, she asked me what I liked about freelancing.  Without hesitating, I commented on how stimulating it is to work with such a diverse group of nonprofit and foundation clients.

As I explore fields that are new to me, I meet fascinating people, and best of all, I get to apply what I learn in unexpected ways that benefit my clients — and my community.

For instance, before I was introduced to CornerHouse in Minneapolis, I knew little about child and adolescent abuse.  Plus, I was completely unaware that this local agency is known worldwide for training of forensic interviewers, or that it is the only children’s advocacy center in the country that is offering healing home visiting services to children and families dealing with the aftermath of abuse.

Experience the Creative Rush
So in the course of just a day or two, I’ve written about families recovering from trauma, grocery delivery services for seniors, and rural broadband access, among other topics.  Shifting from one subject to the next, I see surprising connections between ideas and audiences, and new communications strategies emerge . . . it’s a sort of creative rush.

And it feels like that creativity allows me — in my own small way — to participate in the  local “disruptive philanthropy” movement.  The Charities Review Council team members — who championed the movement at their annual forum last fall — defined disruptive philanthropy as:

“a transformative event or moment, an act of giving and relationship building that is a departure from the status quo. It may not be easy, endorsed or comfortable, but it is necessary to inclusively create a shared vision, a new sustainability, innovation, imagination and growth.”

Personal Design Thinking
In another way, my work on behalf of my clients and their beneficiaries feels like a personal design thinking exercise.

During participation in the Giving 2.0 MOOC last fall, I heard David Kelley from IDEO speak about design thinking in philanthropy and use of the Human-Centered Design Toolkit.  Its underlying premise is that problem-solving in philanthropy must be preceded by deep empathy for the people who will benefit and close engagement with them in “need-finding.”

No matter what how you describe it, I feel happy to zig and zag while I work, using my neurons to connect seemingly unrelated dots . . . and making my small contributions to the third sector and our greater community.

Giving 2.0: The MOOC and Opportunity Costs of Charitable Giving

Do you remember the concept of opportunity cost from your Econ 101 class?

If not, here’s a quick refresher from philanthropy educator Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, during a recent Twitter conversation about wise charitable giving:

So, when resources are limited, how do you choose which nonprofit to fund?  As #Giving Tuesday fast approaches (and Minnesota’s Give to the Max day just concluded), what are the opportunity costs of your giving decisions — when a donation to one organization or cause is a donation denied to another?

Giving 2.0 for Everyone
This is just one lesson I learned this fall while completing Giving 2.0: The MOOC, which sought “to educate givers of all ages, backgrounds, incomes and experiences about effective philanthropy.”

Educational components of the course included short video modules of Arrillaga-Andreessen and guest speakers describing key concepts, brief workbook exercises and talkabouts (Google Hangouts with fellow students from around the world).  Plus, we completed two assignments — an assessment of a nonprofit tackling a social issue that I care about, and my personal IGAP, or Individual Giving Action Plan, to determine the best way to distribute my philanthropic gifts — such as money, volunteer time and skills, and contacts — to maximize social impact.

A few course takeaways in addition to the opportunity cost lesson included:

  • Only one-third of us do any research before making a charitable gift, and only 3 percent of us compare nonprofit organizations before making donations.  Emotions drive our decisions.
  • We can shift from being simply charitable to being truly philanthropic by blending short-term and long-term giving: contributing to provide immediate relief of need or suffering, plus funding of systems change to solve root causes of social problems.
  • Creating a personal theory of change — identifying the causal relationships between my resources, my actions and my desired outcomes — will give me the satisfaction of tracking progress while also enabling me to improve my giving strategies.
  • We should remember that nonprofits (and especially their beneficiaries) know best about what they need, so listen, learn and limit restrictions on our giving.  General operating support is golden.
  • Everyone has something to give, be it time, money and other assets, experience, skills, networks or access to others’ resources.
Pause before making your end-of-year donations:  How can your gift make the biggest impact?

Pause before making your end-of-year donations: How can your gifts make the biggest impact?

What’s Your IGAP?
By giving more strategically, we can not only feel good, but we can create more good by supporting initiatives that will deliver maximum measurable impact.

For access to tools that will help you develop your own Individual Giving Action Plan, check out Arrillaga-Andreessen’s website, follow her on Twitter (@LAAF), subscribe to her foundation newsletter, or buy or borrow her Giving 2.0 book.

The value of your time spent learning about strategic personal philanthropy will far exceed the opportunity cost of other uses of your time.  Especially when your year-end charitable donations deliver more social good than ever before.


Behind the Nonprofit Ratings Curtain

The dog pulls back the curtain.

When using resources that rate nonprofits, be sure to look behind the curtain to understand information sources and ranking systems.

Have you ever used GreatNonprofits as a research tool for evaluating which charities should receive your donations?

This website (among others) is a recommended resource in my materials for Giving 2.0: The MOOC.  It’s been around for five or so years and has big-name national endorsements (including a Bill Gates testimonial).

GreatNonprofits describes itself as “a place to find trustworthy nonprofits.”  Its mission is “to inspire and inform donors and volunteers, enable nonprofits to show their impact, and promote greater feedback and transparency.”

Rating a System that Rates Nonprofits
But as with many nonprofit ranking systems, this tool — which uses a Yelp-like platform — has some shortcomings:

  • The geography search function is set up by city, which isn’t particularly helpful for metropolitan areas with multiple municipalities (like the Twin Cities region).  Plus, as with many nonprofit organization databases, the user can’t tell if the location is where the nonprofit is based or where it provides services.
  • There’s no Boolean search ability, so the user can’t narrow the results.  For instance, if I click “children” and “education,” it appears I only get results for “or” and can’t specify “and.”
  • The results are limited.  When I searched on Minneapolis, less than 50 of 7,733 organizations had any reviews.  Of those 50, about half had two or more reviews and the rest had only one.  (And a few with lots of reviews were filled with comments by the nonprofit’s interns, staff and volunteers.)
  • Nonprofits didn’t show up in the appropriate issue lists.  For instance, Washburn Child Guidance Center had a high number of rankings in the overall Minneapolis list, but it didn’t even show up when I searched on “children.”  (The most fun result I received was the “Beer Judge Certification Program” when I searched on “food”!)
  • And most concerning, some rankings appear to be paid listings.  For example, when I explored the site, Second Harvest Heartland was listed as a “top-nonprofit” (via AdChoices), but it had no actual reviews in the system.

So, what’s the take-away?  Caveat emptor.  GreatNonprofits is not alone among ranking systems that have limited or sometimes misleading information.  When you’re evaluating your charitable giving choices, take time to look behind the curtain of rating tools.  Learn about their sources of information and their ranking criteria.

What Are Your Favorite Comparative Tools?
If you’re a donor, what do you think of Yelp-like sites as tools for rating charities?  What are your favorite resources to research and compare nonprofit organizations?

If you’re a nonprofit communicator or fundraiser, how much time do you invest in creating and enhancing your profile on the many ratings sites?  Which ones are the most important to monitor and maintain?

Please share your thoughts so we can all be informed donors!