Month: August 2016

Seeking “One Brave Idea” to End Heart Disease: Nancy Brown and The American Heart Association

Heart disease is the #1 killer in this country, but 80% of it is preventable, according to Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. In this segment from The Business of Giving, Ms. Brown spells out the different programs of AHA devised to reduce death from heart disease and to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.

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Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of The American Heart Association

Heart disease is the #1 killer in this country, but 80% of it is preventable, according to Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. In this segment from The Business of Giving, Ms. Brown spells out the different programs of AHA devised to reduce death from heart disease and to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.

She also discusses how mission-aligned businesses of AHA are generating 9-figure revenues for the organization, and how they and their partners are using crowdsourcing to find “One Brave Idea” to find a cure for coronary disease. Finally, she shares the keys to alignment, passion and camaraderie in a national charity.
The following is a conversation between Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. It has been edited for clarity.

Denver: More than one in three American adults suffers from cardiovascular disease. To provide a little context: more women will die from heart disease this year than from all the cancers combined. So, Americans are fortunate that the person charged with leading the oldest and largest volunteer organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, has created a culture of innovation. In so doing, she has forged some extraordinary partnerships and is increasing the amount of resources available to help better the lives of all Americans. That leader is Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of The American Heart Association, and it is my pleasure to welcome her to The Business of Giving. Good evening, Nancy, and thanks for being with us this evening.

Nancy: Good evening, Denver. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Denver: So, tell us about the American Heart Association, a little about your history, and more about the mission and objectives of the organization.

Nancy: Absolutely! I’d be delighted to. As you’ve mentioned, the American Heart Association is actually the world’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke. We’ve been in existence since 1924. At the foundation of the American Heart Association’s work is the scientific enterprise of the AHA–coupled with our grassroots presence in communities throughout America–and our presence in 70 international locations. In these,  we dedicate our resources to help make the world a better place for people, and to prevent heart disease and stroke. We are guided by the organization’s 2020 strategic impact goal: which is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by the year 2020, while reducing deaths from heart disease and stroke by 20% during that same timeframe. So this decade-long goal really is the goal that is the guidepost for the work of the organization.

Denver: Let me ask you a bit about heart attacks. I went around to a couple of my buddies this week, and I said, “Do you know what a heart attack is exactly? How does it differ from cardiac arrest?”  I have to tell you, Nancy, the answers were a little fuzzy; they were a bit uncertain. So give us an abbreviated heart disease 101 course if you would.

Nancy: Sure! I’d be pleased to. So, heart disease is, as you said, the country’s and the world’s number one killer. Heart disease is 80% preventable!  What happens when a person has a heart attack, is that the arteries or vessels leading to the heart muscle generally become blocked. They become blocked from atherosclerosis– which happens as we age, and also happens because of a hardening of arteries in individuals who have high blood pressure. When the arteries narrow, or when the arteries are blocked due to atherosclerosis, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen, therein causing the heart, in some cases, to have a heart attack. There is another kind of heart attack called a  “sudden cardiac arrest,” which is actually not a heart attack at all.  That is a misnomer. A sudden cardiac arrest happens when the electrical functions of the heart malfunction, and a person’s heart suddenly stops.

Denver: Completely.

Nancy: And that person can be revived generally through CPR or through a defibrillator, if one is available, or if people are trained in CPR. We can come back and talk about the role the American Heart Association has played in that over time. The important thing– if you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or symptoms of a stroke–is to call 911 and get emergency care immediately! (more…)

Dr. Louis DeGennaro, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

elt_lou_degannaroThe Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a New York-based charity, raises more than $300 million a year, with an average donation of just $75. Amassing their huge network of grassroots donors has helped the organization fund more than $1 billion for education and research to treat blood cancers.

In this interview from The Business of Giving, Dr. Louis DeGennaro, President & CEO of LLS,  talks about the charity’s success in attracting small donors to help deal with blood cancers–the third-leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths. He also discusses the organization’s research grants to speed development of promising therapies and their First Connection program that matches newly diagnosed patients and their families with survivors for personalized peer support.


The following is a conversation between Dr. Louis DeGennaro, President and CEO of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: When a nonprofit organization has provided $1 billion in research funding for a disease, that is a remarkable milestone. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reached that milestone a short while ago, and they have equally remarkable results to match. So, it is indeed my pleasure to introduce their President and CEO, Dr. Louis DeGennaro. Good evening, Dr. DeGennaro, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Dr. Lou: Thank you, Denver! Very happy to be here.

Denver: Tell us about The Leukemia &  Lymphoma Society, commonly known as LLS. Also, a bit about the history of the organization–your mission and goals.

Dr. Lou: Happy to do so! The Leukemia &  Lymphoma Society was founded in 1949 by a father and mother who lost their 16-year- old son to leukemia.  And their goal at the time was to raise funds, support research, and find a cure. And frankly, we’ve been true to their guidance ever since. As you mentioned, last year, we jumped a major milestone– we’ve deployed over $ 1 billion dollars to support research worldwide.

Denver: Congratulations!

Dr. Lou: That support has led to the discovery of virtually every modern therapy used to treat the blood cancers. Cancers of the blood affect the red blood cells, the white blood cells, the bone, and bone marrow. They  are a class of about 140 different diseases–the ones people are most familiar with: leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and then a host of other more rare diseases. Something that your listeners might be interested in knowing.. and perhaps would find shocking… is that when you take these diseases together as a group–the blood cancers–they are the third largest cancer killer in the United States.

Denver: Wow!

And this provides a huge unmet medical need. Again, that’s why The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society exists. We exist to find cures, and to make certain that patients have access to those life-saving therapies.

Denver: How many Americans have been diagnosed with blood cancer?

Dr. Lou: There are about 200,000 new diagnoses per year. About a million North Americans currently live with the consequences of a blood cancer diagnosis.


“There are patients today with one form of blood cancer–chronic myeloid leukemia–who treat their disease at home… taking two pills a day. They’ll live a normal, long and healthy life. They’ll die from something else, not their leukemia. And we’re very proud of those advances.”


Denver: Is there an early detection for a blood cancer?

Dr. Lou: Sadly, no. This is one of the major issues for the blood cancers. We don’t know what causes these diseases, so it’s difficult to talk about a prevention strategy.

Someday, I’d love to come back and talk about prevention. The science and the medicine just aren’t  there today. In addition, there’s no early detection. There’s no mammogram  for leukemia or  PSA test for multiple myeloma. As a consequence, patients present with a full-blown disease to their physician. So again, the bow of our ship has been research because we want the physicians- when they see that patient with a full-blown disease—to be able to say, “I have an effective therapy for you.”

Denver: Got ya!

Dr. Lou: And we’ve been very successful. Since the 1960s,  the survival rate for these blood cancers– depending on the disease– has doubled, tripled, even quadrupled. There are patients today with one form of blood cancer–chronic myeloid leukemia–who treat their disease at home… taking two pills a day. They’ll live a normal, long and healthy life. They’ll die from something else, not their leukemia. And we’re very proud of those advances.

Denver: Go into a bit more depth on that. The way we treat and research blood cancer today– compared to 20-25 years ago– this evolution has truly been astounding. What were some of the milestones along the way that got us to the point where you could take pills at home?

Dr. Lou: There were two major advances that The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society actually helped to drive. One occurred in 1999-2000, and that was the advent of a kind of therapy called “targeted therapy.”   Emblematic of it is a drug called “Glivec.” It’s the drug that treats chronic myeloid leukemia–the leukemia I just mentioned a minute ago. If you were diagnosed with CML, as it’s called, in 1999, your physician would tell you you had a three- year life expectancy. Driven by research funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in the year 2000, the FDA approved the drug called “Glivec.” That drug is unique and was incredibly unique back then, in that it targets the cancer and leaves the good cells of the body alone.

Denver: Fantastic!

Dr. Lou: So unlike the sledgehammer of chemotherapy–which is toxic to good cells as well as bad cells…


“It is fertile ground, and we have made substantial progress. Blood cancer research tends to be the tip of the spear in the fight against cancer.”


Denver: As bad as the disease sometimes!

Dr. Lou: Absolutely! This drug targets the cancer, leaves the good cells in the body alone, and 90% of newly-diagnosed CML patients go into a deep and durable remission. On Glivec, they live… as I said earlier… long, healthy productive lives and probably die of something else. (more…)

Kate Roberts of Maverick Collective and the Women-Centric Model of Philanthropy

“Money doesn’t solve problems. People do!” says Kate Roberts, co-founder of the Maverick Collective, an organization that aims to redefine what it means to be a philanthropist.

 

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Kate Roberts, Co-Founder of Maverick Collective

In this interview from The Business of Giving, Ms. Roberts explains how Maverick Collective members invest a minimum of $1 million over three years to pilot an innovative solution for girls and women in the developing world. The organization, co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, is an initiative of Population Services International (PSI).

The following is a conversation between Kate Roberts, Co-Founder of The Maverick Collective and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving, on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

Denver: With the constant barrage of messages, tweets, ads, Facebook posts and the rest, it is extremely difficult for any new initiative to break through and capture people’s attention. But then along comes The Maverick Collective, which has quickly become a hot topic in the world of philanthropy….. and beyond. So it’s a great pleasure to have with us this evening its co-founder, Kate Roberts. Good evening, Kate, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Kate: Good evening! It’s great to be here.

Denver: The Maverick Collective, which is still quite young, has really captured many people’s imagination. What is it?  And where did the spark of this idea come from?

Kate: The spark of it came from being so impressed with watching philanthropists, such as Melinda Gates, who serves as our co-chair. Coming to the realization that she’s leaving so many of her own resources on the table — and having the smarts, as well as money, to create social change. So, personally, I was really inspired by her journey and the great work that she was doing at the foundation. She then started to mobilize billions of dollars for the issue of family planning. So, that really led us to believe that there is an incredible platform for other like-minded, bold women who really do want to use their skills, their resources and their voice to create change…. rather than just writing a check. Go beyond the check…really get involved and amplify your impact as a philanthropist. And then, of course, the sustainable development goals were announced–very aggressive goals.

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Lindsay Levin of Leaders’ Quest and the Philosophy Behind Compassion X

In this interview from The Business of Giving, Lindsay Levin, the Founding Partner of Leaders’ Quest, and the author of Invisible Giants: Changing the World One Step at a Time, discusses how Leaders’ Quest helps build a sustainable, more inclusive world in collaboration with leaders. She shares the philosophy behind Compassion X and tells us remarkable stories of people she has met and the impressive  impact they’ve delivered through their work.

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The following is a conversation between Lindsay Levin, Founding Partner of Leaders’ Quest and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This transcript  has been edited for clarity.

Denver: If you go on to the internet and look for courses in leadership, you will not be disappointed. There are plenty to choose from… whether you want to take them online or in person. But you won’t see too many reviews from those who have taken them that describe their course as “life-changing”  or “transformative”  the way you will for Leaders’ Quest.  It’s a great pleasure for me to have with us this evening the Founding Partner of Leaders’ Quest, Lindsay Levin. Good evening, Lindsay, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Lindsay: Good evening. I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Denver: So, tell us about Leaders’ Quest, founded in 2001.  What is its purpose? And what makes it so exceptional?

Lindsay: Thank you. Sure! Leaders’ Quest is really about bridging divides. Our work is about connecting people from very different walks of life, different industries, different sectors,  different countries… and having people learn from one another.

Denver: Well, I want to go on a Quest, okay? So, who am I going to go with? Where across the world are you going to take me? How long does it last? And what will I do when I’m there?

Lindsay: Sure, we do–broadly speaking–two kinds of Quests. The first sort of program you might join us for will typically be one week long. It could take place anywhere.  It could be here in the US; it could be in the Middle East; it could be somewhere in Africa,  Asia, Latin America. For example, our next program is in Kenya. The program after that is in Cuba. The one after that is in Israel,  Palestine, and the West Bank.

You would be with a real mixed group of leaders from different walks of life–people from big corporations, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, people leading nonprofits. It would be a very deliberate mix of people from different countries. And in the course of five or six days with us, you would go out and visit with all kinds of leaders and organizations in whichever country we’re visiting. We would deliberately mix in time spent with businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and technologists. Time is spent visiting various communities–grassroots, slums, townships, villages–where people are driving change from the bottom up.

Denver: So I would observe, listen and watch other people make change. How is that going to help transform me?

Lindsay: Well, one of the ways I think about our work is that you can feel like you’re looking through a window. You’re looking out at something else, and you discover that it’s not really a window–it’s actually a mirror!  In the course of having these different visits and different kinds of conversations, it’s very mutual. You’re learning, you’re sharing, you’re asking questions, you’re pursuing the things that really interest you.  And in the course of that, what typically happens  is you start to think about your own life.  You start to think about your own way of leading, your own way of relating to people. And you start to notice different things about how you do what you do.

Denver:  It sounds, Lindsay, a little bit like another organization called Roots of Empathy. It teaches children empathy. In Lesson One, a baby is brought into the classroom on a blanket by his mother. And you observe what the baby is trying to do– the frustrations of reaching a rattle, looking for his mother. As a result, the kids begin to talk among themselves. And changes begin in their behavior– as it relates to bullying, inclusiveness, being kind. In watching somebody else try to make change, you begin to reflect back inward on yourself. It sounds similar to the experience you attempt to provide…Correct?

Lindsay: Right! Exactly!  And one of the reasons I started this was I believe we don’t spend enough time engaging with and getting to know people we may think of as “other,”  or different from ourselves.  So, in my view and  experience,  once you’ve met people from a different country,  a different part of your own town, a different neighborhood–and once you’ve actually talked to them about the things that matter to them–it’s impossible to go back to seeing them as “other.”  You form a connection that changes the way that you look at relationships and life.

Denver: Another thing that I think is distinctive–and you just touched on it–is the sense of self-awareness. I think we spend so much time looking at our external environment–trying to win, get profits…

Lindsay: Right.

Denver:  You really can’t be a great leader unless you are self-aware, correct?

Lindsay: I agree. Self awareness — the ability to cooperate and collaborate. The world, on one hand, is very competitive. But it also needs partnership. It also needs collaboration. And I think today, we need that far, far more than we ever did in the past.


Those are some of the things that we try to show people… that the world isn’t just newspaper headlines or what you watch on the internet. The world is full of people trying to do great things every day.


Denver: You started this 15 years ago.. as I mentioned… back in 2001.  Since you began, what we look for and need in a leader has certainly changed dramatically. What are the big differences you have observed?  And how are they  reflected in the way you design and develop Leaders’ Quest?

Lindsay: Right.  I think  the world is changing very fast. That’s not going to slow down–be it  technology, scale,  the numbers of people on the planet,  how we’re all mixed up together — the world is changing very fast. So one of the challenges for leaders is to actually be at peace with that!  To be able to work with vast change, to cope with ambiguity, to cope with uncertainty… And I think for that, you need to be very, very rooted in what you stand for.  You need to understand your own values, what’s important to you.  To have a sense of optimism… see possibility… and work with hope. Those are some of the things that we try to show people… that the world isn’t just newspaper headlines  or what you watch on the internet. The world is full of people trying to do great things every day. And if you connect in with that–and if you build relationships with those kinds of people–you deliver very different outcomes.

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Gordon Berlin And The Role of Research Evidence in Shaping Social Policy

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Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC

For organizations seeking government and philanthropic funding, reliable proof of progress is an increasingly important currency. “Programs that had good evidence would get the bulk of the money,” says Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC, a nonprofit research organization focusing on education and social policy. In this segment from the Business of Giving, Mr. Berlin discusses about the role of rigorous research evidence in informing how government and philanthropy invest in education and social programs.

The following is a conversation between Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This interview has been edited for clarity. 

Denver: After this country’s “war on poverty” in the 1960s, there was a growing concern that the programs that were being funded were ineffective and selected simply because they sounded good. So, enter MDRC, an organization founded in 1974 to rigorously test and evaluate programs before they became public policy. And here to join us this evening is the President of MDRC, Gordon Berlin.

Good evening, Gordon, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Gordon: Well, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Denver: Notwithstanding that brief introduction, tell us in some detail what MDRC does. What are the mission and purpose of the organization?

Gordon: Sure, I’d be happy to. So, MDRC, as you said, was founded in the mid-1970s. Put yourself there;  Nixon was President.  There was broad disaffection with social programs. We’re beginning to wonder about the “war on poverty” and how effective it really was. And there was a growing sense that what we needed to do was to develop new ideas and test them more rigorously before we made them public policy. That was really the spirit with which MDRC was founded.


“You take a group of people that are eligible. You flip a coin essentially in a lottery-like process. Everybody who gets a “Heads” ends up in a program. Everybody who gets a “Tails” does not. You follow both groups over time, and the only thing that could explain any difference you find is that one group participated in the program.”


Denver: The gold standard of evaluation designs is the use of randomized control trials, a term which is almost synonymous with MDRC. What are randomized control trials? And why are they so useful in determining the effectiveness of a program?

Gordon: Well, one of the biggest problems in evaluating a program is trying to figure out what difference the program made… above and beyond what might have happened to anyone. So take a job training program. Let’s say the program has a 60% placement rate, and people stay on the job for 90 days at that 60% rate or so.

Well, in the middle of the great recession, what do you think of that rate? Is it a good rate or a bad rate? Now, go back to the roaring 1990s,  and ask yourself  the same question–when the unemployment rate nationally was only 4%. So, the idea here is that you need a counterfactual–a control group, a comparison. That is a group of people that are just like the people that you’re serving in this program– to tell you, over time, what would have happened. The problem in most studies– when they try to identify that group–is that there are a huge amount of statistical assumptions involved.  And there are always arguments about it.  

And the most elegant, simple, believable approach is random assignment. You take a group of people that are eligible. You flip a coin essentially in a lottery-like process. Everybody who gets a “Heads” ends up in a program.  Everybody who gets a “Tails” does not. You follow both groups over time, and the only thing that could explain any difference you find is that one group participated in the program.
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Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest and the Gender Investing Gap

Data shows that women investors actually have a better track record than men. So, why aren’t more women investing, and why aren’t they investing more?  In this segment, Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest discusses the gender investing gap.

 

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The following is the full transcript of the conversation between Sallie Krawcheck, Founder and CEO of Ellevest and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM970 The Answer in New York City. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Denver: We have all read and heard about the gender pay gap that still exists in America in 2016–with full-time female workers making only 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. But how many of us are aware of the gender investing gap and the severe financial consequences that can accrue for women who are investing less than their male counterparts?   Not many of us! And that is why it is such a pleasure to have with us this evening the founder and CEO of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck. She will explain why that gap exists and what she is doing to address it. Good evening, Sallie.  And welcome to The Business of Giving.

Sallie: Hi, Denver. It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Denver: Let’s start with this gender investing gap. Data shows that women investors actually have a better track record than men. So, why aren’t more women investing, and why aren’t they investing more?

Sallie: Well, women tend to have a better track record in investing– when they invest– than men do, because they tend to take a longer-term perspective. They tend to trade less. They tend to shift in and out of stocks or mutual funds less often. Here are some other facts:  Women, girls and young ladies tend to be as good or better at math than boys, but you didn’t think that either…

Denver: I’ve seen the studies. It’s amazing!

Sallie: It is really interesting. I would say one of the reasons that women don’t invest to the same extent that men do, is because we still think of it in some ways as a male pursuit. We still have some of the 1957 Ozzie and Harriet — that this is the man’s way. Some of it is –Math — we’ve been told as women and girls that it is hard stuff. But some of it, Denver, comes from the industry itself–Wall Street and the investing industry. Think about it for a second. Turn on CNBC. Turn on Bloomberg. I love those channels. They are talking about beating the market, outperforming the market, picking the winner. Your adrenaline starts to go when the market opens in the morning. It’s like sports programming. So let’s think for a second–war analogies, sports analogies, sports programming. One more: the symbol of the industry is a–?

Denver: Bull…

Sallie: Bull…

Denver: Yeah! [laughter]

Sallie: The industry financial advisers, on average about 85% male, tends to be a more mature financial adviser — so I think in their 50s, really. For so many companies, in their 60s. In fact, there is one company that was telling me they had more financial advisers over the age of 80 than under the age of 30.

Denver: Wow.

Sallie: So it’s an older gentleman’s pursuit, and not too surprisingly, the client base tends to reflect the complexion of the advisers. So it’s guys doing business with guys.

Denver: Now that’s all very fascinating. I don’t think people fully appreciate the profound impact that language can have on our psyche…

Sallie: And symbols, right?

Denver: And symbols. You’re absolutely right! Do Wall Street brokers treat their female clients differently than their male clients?

Sallie: Great question! I’ve spent a lot of time on this. I’ve had the privilege of running Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. I was the CEO of Smith Barney, so I’ve been in this industry for years and years, and there are so many great advisers out there. And there are so many that do a terrific job for women. Not enough though. So typically, when you ask a financial adviser sitting with a couple:  Do you treat the man and woman differently? They say, “No!” (more…)

Interview Transcript: Andrea Jung and The Fastest Growing Microfinance Organization in the US

 

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Andrea Jung, President and CEO of Grameen America

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Grameen America is the fastest-growing microfinance organization in the United States, giving very small loans to women in poverty to build businesses.  They have helped over 70,000 women and have a remarkable payback rate of 99.6%, according to Andrea Jung, their President and CEO.

In this segment from The Business of Giving, Ms. Andrea Jung, who previously served as the CEO of Avon Products for 12 years, discusses the importance of social capital and outlines how to take a nonprofit to scale.  She also shares how she is going about making Grameen America a sustainable enterprise and what inspired her to move from the corporate world to the nonprofit sector.

Denver: The United States has been very reluctant to take ideas that have shown great promise in the developing world, and with a little bit of tweaking, see whether they just might work here. But one organization that has broken with that convention and with remarkable success is Grameen America. It is indeed a great pleasure to have with us this evening the President and CEO of Grameen America, Andrea Jung. Good evening, Andrea, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Andrea: Good evening, Denver. It’s great to be here with you.

Denver: Give our listeners a brief overview of Grameen America — the mission and goals of the organization.

Andrea: Grameen America is, today, the fastest growing microfinance organization in the United States. We are in 11 cities. We have 18 branches and essentially, we give non-recourse, very small loans to women and their families in poverty. They have to use them to build entrepreneurial businesses,  and we help them be banked. For the first time, many women are not banked in poverty in the United States, and we also help them build a credit score. (more…)

Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director of the MacArthur Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

With all the discussion in philanthropy about “Big Bets” for social change, the biggest “Big Bet” of them all just may be the initiative of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This competition, announced in June, will award a single $100 million grant to a nonprofit or for-profit entity that comes up with the best proposal and plan to solve one of the world’s biggest problems.

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Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director of the MacArthur Foundation

This interview has been edited for clarity.

In this transcript  from The Business of Giving, Dr. Cecelia Conrad, Managing Director of The MacArthur Foundation, traces the history of this idea and outlines the process for the competition. She also offers us a behind-the-scenes look at the MacArthur Fellows Program and shares her mixed feelings about it being dubbed the “Genius Grants.”

 

Denver: There is a foundation out in Chicago that shook up the world of philanthropy and beyond by announcing recently that they would award a single $100 million grant to a nonprofit or for profit entity that could come up with a proposal and plan to solve one of the world’s biggest problems. That foundation, also known for a program that has been coined by the media as the”genius grants,” is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. And with us this evening is their Managing Director, Dr. Cecilia Conrad. Good evening, Cecilia, and welcome to the Business of Giving.

Cecilia: Good evening, and thank you for including me.

Denver: Before we delve into the two programs I just mentioned, tell us who were John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur. How did they make their money? And tell us a little bit about the history of the foundation.

Cecilia: Well, the MacArthurs made their money in real estate and in insurance. Actually, they did quite a bit of work in Florida real estate. When they passed away, they decided to set aside their estate as the MacArthur Foundation. And what’s unusual about them is that they did not give specific directions about how the money should be spent or on what issues. They basically said, “Here’s our gift. Go and make the world a better place.”

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Perla Ni, CEO and Founder of Great Nonprofits

In this podcast, Perla Ni, the founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits speaks about her background and how it inspired her to build the organization. She discusses the importance of “beneficiary feedback” and how those served by nonprofits are sometimes best able to evaluate their effectiveness.

 

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Perla Ni, founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Denver: Would you go away on summer vacation to a spot you’ve never been before without checking TripAdvisor or some other comparable site? And while you were there, would you just wander into any old restaurant for dinner before looking at the Yelp reviews on your phone? Or buy a new propane gas grill without reading customer reviews online to see what others had to say about it? Well the answer to all this, is of course not! So, does it make any sense to support a charity without reading a review from those who’ve been helped by it and others who were involved in some capacity? Well, my next guest didn’t think so either. That is why she started GreatNonprofits. It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome to the show Perla Ni, the founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits. Good evening, Perla, and thanks so much for being with us this evening.

Perla: Thank you. It’s been great to be here.

Denver: So, the year is 2005, and you are the publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, one of the premiere publications in the philanthropic and nonprofit management world, and Hurricane Katrina strikes. So people come to you and ask where can they contribute to make the most meaningful difference. After all, who’s gonna know any better than you? What do you tell them?

Perla: And that was the question of the day. Many of my friends and family told me they wanted to contribute and really make an impact by giving to local nonprofits. Could I recommend some local nonprofits in New Orleans or Biloxi, Mississippi that they could give to? I sat there really puzzled. Here I was at Stanford, one of the most wonderful publications here in the country focused on nonprofit management. But I did not know about local nonprofits in that area. One of my journalist friends went out there to volunteer, and when he came back, he told me of several fantastic local nonprofits that he had seen helping people get medical care, taking people to get registered for emergency housing. And he said these are organizations that often are not well-known to the world. That really inspired me to create GreatNonprofits– which is a way for folks to share experiences about nonprofits as volunteers, as donors, and as clients that have been helped by the nonprofit.

(more…)

Interview Transcript: Stephen Heintz On Oil, Iran and Rockefeller Giving

 

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Stephen Heintz, President of the Rocketfeller Brothers Fund

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Foundations are often taken to task for being too risk-averse but no one could apply that epithet to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. RBF, a 76-year-old foundation, played a huge and long-term role in brokering the U.S. and Iran nuclear agreement — which is now perhaps the most prominent and most committed philanthropic initiative to cease investing in oil, coal, and gas.

In this segment from the Business of Giving, Stephen Heintz, the fund’s president, tells the story behind its decision to divest from fossil fuels, despite its wealth being derived from one of America’s great oil fortunes. He also shares his thoughts on the Iran deal, how foundations can leverage and maximize its influence, their learning from grantees, the challenge of measuring the unquantifiable, and the history of Rockefeller family philanthropy.

The following is the full transript of the conversation between Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: We have had many  guests on The Business of Giving who have expressed the wish their foundation would be bolder, take more risks, and not be so afraid of failure. They believe bold action is necessary to achieve the transformative social breakthroughs that the world so desperately needs. However, risk taking is not a problem for the the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In fact, far from it. And it’s a great pleasure to have with us this evening their president, Stephen Heintz.

Good evening Stephen and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Stephen: Denver, thank you. I’m very happy to be here.

Denver: Before we get in into the work of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, I wanted to take a moment to discuss John D. Rockefeller. I don’t think many people have much of an idea of who John D. Rockefeller was, and even less so about his philanthropy. Tell us a bit about his story.

Stephen: It’s a wonderful story,  so I am delighted that you’re interested. John D. Rockefeller was born in 1839 in upstate New York. He was born into a very modest family. He left home when he was 16 years old and went to Ohio; started work at that age, and in his first year of work, he made a total of $45. We know this because we actually have his ledger book because he kept very detailed ledgers from the very beginning.

Denver: Right from the very start… [laughter]

Stephen: So, he made $45 in income, and he gave away $5 in that first year. So he was already contributing more than 10% of his income to charitable causes because of his devout Baptist faith.

Denver: How interesting is that!

Stephen: It’s amazing, and then of course– so this was 1855…

By 1900, he is the wealthiest man in the world. A short period of time. He was an extraordinary entrepreneur and a visionary. He saw the future, and he saw that this newly discovered substance called petroleum was going to be transformative.   He got to the head of the line and pushed through. And then of course, you know he’s been rightly criticized for very ruthless business practices along the way,  but this was in an unregulated environment. He didn’t violate laws that we know of because the law didn’t exist.

But he also was giving away more and more of his wealth from the very beginning. And then of course, the wealth was just so enormous that a very close adviser of his said to him, “Mr. Rockefeller, if you don’t give away this money, it will ruin you and your family!”  So, he set up the mechanisms to give most of it away.

Denver: And he gave it away to a whole host of institutions. One of the things that I never realized was that he actually started the University of Chicago, and he did it in an anonymous way. He never even set foot on the campus. (more…)