Month: January 2017

Cheryl Dorsey, President and CEO of Echoing Green, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Cheryl Dorsey, President and CEO of Echoing Green, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Cheryl Dorsey

Denver: Every social entrepreneur who has ever had a great idea needs others to believe in him or her and that idea, especially in the very early stages. One of the first organizations that has taken this leap of faith, albeit a carefully thought out and calibrated one, is Echoing Green, which has helped to finance and launch some incredible organizations that have made the world a better place. And with us now is the President and CEO of Echoing Green, Cheryl Dorsey. Good evening, Cheryl, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Cheryl: Denver, thank you so much for having me. It’s wonderful to see you again.

The mission of Echoing Green is simple and wonderful: It is to unleash next generation talent to solve the world’s greatest problems.

Denver: Likewise. Tell us about Echoing Green, how it got started and the work of the organization.

Cheryl: Yes, thank you for asking. Echoing Green has been around—it’s hard to believe— almost 30 years. We were founded in 1987 by the senior leadership of a private equity firm called General Atlantic, who were true pioneers in the space of social entrepreneurship. And the mission of Echoing Green is simple and wonderful: It is to unleash next generation talent to solve the world’s greatest problems.

We are probably best known for our world-class fellowship program, through which we go out across the world looking for next generation leadership who have good ideas to make their communities, regions, countries and world a better place… and ask them to submit their ideas for social change. And through a pretty rigorous, tough social business plan competition,we will ultimately winnow down the thousands of submissions we receive each year and ultimately make investments in anywhere from 20 to 40 great next-gen leaders with next-gen ideas, and help them get farther faster. So it is a wonderful collection of top talent.

Denver: Give us an idea of some of the people and ideas that you have supported early on and nurtured that maybe some of our listeners will recognize.


Skoll Foundation CEO Sally Osberg Talks about Social Entrepreneurs: Getting Beyond Better

Getting Beyond Better, a new book by Skoll Foundation CEO Sally Osberg and noted management strategist Roger L. Martin, explores how social entrepreneurship developed and how it works to disrupt and replace systems that entrench inequality and marginalize large swathes of society.

In this segment from the Business of Giving, Ms. Osberg talks about social entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo to address the world’s most pressing problems. She traces the four stages of transformation an effective social entrepreneur must undertake and presents vivid examples of how each contributes to building solutions for a better, fairer world.

The following is conversation between Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Sally Osberg

Denver: In 1999, Jeffrey Skoll, the co-founder of eBay, decided to turn his attention from entrepreneurship to social entrepreneurship and started the Skoll Foundation. When he went looking for someone to run the organization with him, he was fortunate to find my next guest– who was also fortunate to find him.  Now we’re all fortunate to have her with us. She is Sally Osberg, the President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation and the co-author of Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works. Good evening, Sally, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Sally: Thank you so much, Denver. It’s a pleasure.

Denver: Tell us about the Skoll Foundation, a bit more about how it got started, and the mission and objectives of the organization.

Sally: Happy to! You’ve already mentioned Jeff Skoll, and Jeff Skoll is an iconic Silicon Valley entrepreneur, renowned for, as you said, co-founding eBay with Pierre Omidyar. Jeff, as an entrepreneur, really resonated to a very special kind of leader who took the discipline and the drive and the disruptive vision to the work of trying to make the world a better place.

So right from the get-go, although neither Jeff nor I had the frame for social entrepreneurship, much less the term, we had a really clear sense of the kind of individual and organization that we thought could really drive the scale of change that Jeff was after for his philanthropy. That was the grounding for the foundation’s mission. It took a couple of years, but eventually we landed on a mission to drive large-scale change on the world’s most pressing problems– by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them.

So, that really was the genesis of the foundation. Jeff’s vision for a world of peace and prosperity that was sustainable, translated into a mission, and that really then became our work with social entrepreneurs and their organizations.

Social entrepreneurs are attacking a system that leads to the marginalization or suffering of some very large segment of a society, and it’s that paradigm that the social entrepreneur is really driven to transform… Social entrepreneurs drive equilibrium change on the world’s pressing problems, consistent with the way entrepreneurs do their work with the business model.

Denver: What is a social entrepreneur? I know that was a gist of your piece back in 2007 when you wrote the article about “The Case for Definition.” What is a social entrepreneur and how does that differ from social enterprise?

Sally: That’s a big question, Denver. As we landed on this idea of social entrepreneurship, one of our board of directors, Roger Martin, who is himself renowned for his work and strategy, felt it was really important. In fact, it was our responsibility to come to clarity about the term and what we meant by it. Because we couldn’t really develop… much less execute a good strategy without being really clear about the kind of folks we were looking for and in whom we wanted to invest.

That’s what led to that article you referenced that we published in 2007 in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition.” And there, we advanced the idea, first of all, that social entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs, and that entrepreneurs are disruptors. Entrepreneurs really shift a status quo, whether it’s in business – it has to do with a product or service, or lack of a product or service. Think of Larry Page,  Sergey Brin, and the internet before you had Google, before you had search engines. It was impossible to really get the information you needed and wanted from the internet. They created a disruptive service that really transformed the way people use the internet.

Same with social entrepreneurs. The difference is that social entrepreneurs are attacking a system that leads to the marginalization or suffering of some very large segment of a society, and it’s that paradigm that the social entrepreneur is really driven to transform. So that was the definition we put forward:  that social entrepreneurs drive equilibrium change on the world’s pressing problems, consistent with the way entrepreneurs do their work with the business model.

The most transformative changes have really come from either government policy innovation… or they’ve come from business innovation…It’s really about adapting the principles and the practices of business and government in creating something entirely new to the world.

Denver: Where does this fit on the continuum or spectrum of society, Sally? If we have government  on one end, and we have private industry on the other: where does social entrepreneurship fit? And what is its unique contribution? (more…)

Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

robertlynch2011Denver: There are thousands upon thousands of arts organization across the country – local theatre groups, art exhibits, musical performances in great halls, school programs – all adding to the richness, diversity, vibrancy, and economic health of America. But who represents their collective interests, speaks to their importance, and advocates on their behalf? Well, that is left to a nonprofit organization called Americans for the Arts. And with us this evening is their President and CEO, Robert Lynch. Good evening, Bob, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Robert: Hi. It’s great to be here.

Denver: Give us a brief history of Americans for the Arts and an overview of the work that you do.

Robert: Americans for the Arts was founded with a different name back in 1960, and it grew out of a movement of local arts councils, local arts agencies. There was one in 1947;  that one came into being because a returning veteran from World War II wanted to see things happening in his own hometown of Quincy, Illinois. That one grew to some 100 and 4  state arts agencies in 1960, and they formed this national service organization way back then: the Associated Arts Councils of America.

It had three goals. It’s “Let’s get more local arts agencies to happen here in America!” And today, there are  5,000 of them all across the country. “What about a national arts council?” they said, and so our organization was the lobbying entity to create the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965.  And then there should be more of these state arts agencies because they all fund the arts…those three levels of government. And so there was a plank put in in the middle of the night in the appropriations enabling bill for the National Endowment for the Arts that said “Any state that had a state arts agency could get matching money.” So within a year, the 4 became 50.

Denver: It’s funny how those things happen.

Robert: Yes, absolutely. So that was the beginning of our organization. And then over the years—I’ve actually been there now for 32 years, amazingly, as of two days ago—we did six mergers: a merger or two with organizations that were focused on the arts and the business world; arts and individual philanthropists; and then also state arts advocates and arts education organizations. We brought them all together, and it became Americans for the Arts back in 1996. That’s who we are.

Today, our work is to focus:  one-half of the work on serving the needs of those 5,000 local arts councils who themselves fund and serve the 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations out there. And the other half of the work, with a 501(c)(4) political wing of our organization, is to lead the advocacy effort for federal, state, and local government support for the arts.

Denver:  You’re sort of three organizations rolled in one. You have the 501(c)(3) with the members, and you have the lobbying piece with the 501(c)(4). But you’re also a political action committee, and you support candidates who are favourably disposed to the arts. So, let me take that last one for a moment. What do you anticipate from a Trump administration in this regard?  And how do you think it’s going to differ from the last eight years under Obama?

Robert: The work that we do with the political action committee, it’s called the Arts Action Fund PAC. The work is to basically look at leadership at the government level, particularly House and Senate, and find pro-arts– either candidates or incumbents– and reward them to the extent that we can. And so we probably do in a best election cycle: a hundred gifts, which is a lot. And the gifts are simply to recognize that they have recognized that the arts are important. What we see now with the Trump administration coming in, and what’s important to realize is that there’s the presidential cabinet and the administrative part.  There’s also a very different House and Senate profile, and they all have to work together. The Republicans themselves have differing points of view.

So, we have people who are not supportive of the arts for a variety of reasons. The biggest one has nothing to do with the arts. They don’t think federal government should be involved. It’s a philosophical issue. And then for other reasons, others do support the arts. We did a survey with The Washington Post of Mr. Trump’s feelings a few months before the campaign ended—we actually got all the presidential candidates to talk about their arts positions—and his position was that he likes the arts; he’s supportive of the arts; he wants to be, he said, “an advocate for the arts.” But as far as decision-making, he thought maybe that was something he would leave to Congress, so there’s that split again. And as far as decision-making for things like education, he thought that should be a state or a local issue. So it’s unformed at this point what he will actually do, but the good news is that he’s not against the arts.

And other people who he has listened to in this campaign were adversaries in the past, like Newt Gingrich, for example. But even Mr. Gingrich, we had a conversation a couple of years ago, was much more interested in the arts at that particular time as something that was good for the nation and good for communities, and maybe the government could be involved. So we’re hopeful that there will be some positive energy. We know that what the arts can do around issues like jobs, economic impact, community development, infrastructure are things that the Trump administration has already said they want to focus on early.

Denver: Talk to that a little bit, if you would. What is the economic case that you would make to potential donors and to the government on why they should support the arts?

Robert: The truth and what people know is very far apart. Because the arts are often seen as something that’s poor, that has to be subsidized, that has to be a charity. And in fact, the government itself– the Department of Commerce– pegs the nonprofit and for-profit arts in America as a $704 billion industry, 4.1% of gross domestic product.

Denver: It’s a lot bigger than many other industries that we would think were bigger.

Robert: Absolutely. Bigger than tourism itself.

Denver: Bigger than construction.

Robert: Bigger than construction. And that figure is something, I would venture to say that almost nobody knows, and certainly nobody knows the comparison that you just made to other industries. So that is important, and it’s important from both a domestic point of view, which the Trump administration is very interested in, and an international commerce point of view because we are, as a nation, exporting things that can be exported. And we’re trying to attract people here, and tourism is something to be attracted. So, it’s an interesting case.

Now, when you go to the nonprofit organizations, which is about 100,000 of about 700,000 organizations that we can see are art-centric organizations… those 100,000—we did a study five years ago (the new arts and economic impact study will come out this summer), but the last one showed that the nonprofit arts in America were a $134 billion industry– a huge chunk– and that they supported 3.1 million jobs in America, directly and indirectly. We’ve done that survey every four years, and it keeps increasing. So it’s a growth industry; it’s got big economic numbers, and it is something that mayors, for example, from an economic point of view, continually invest in. Those are the biggest government investors– local government money. The mayors have a 15 or 17 point plank for the new President of the United States, and they have taken 2 of those planks to be about the arts because they feel it’s so important for the economic and community development growth.

Denver: Digging a little deeper on that, how are the arts funded in the United States? What’s the breakdown in that source of funding?

Robert: Every arts organization is different, and they will tell you this if they hear my numbers. But when we looked at, and also the National Endowment for the Arts separately looked at, the almost 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations out there, it looked like that about 60% of the money today is from earned income. Now, that’s a big change from 25 or 30 years ago;  it was much less back then. But before the National Endowment for the Arts, it was much higher because there was no money coming in. So the 60% is earned income, so that means they’re small businesses. They’re out there actually generating income from ticket sales or restaurants that they might have as part of their bigger institutions; 30% is from the private sector, mostly individuals–about 20% of them–and followed by foundations at about 5%, and corporations at about  5%.

What’s interesting about that is that that’s a lot less than people think. People think that the corporations and the foundations are doing a lot more. I’m often asked to speak in Europe about this. They want to follow the American model. They think the American model is 100% corporate because corporations have been so good at getting their logos on everything. So that’s the second chunk, the private chunk.

And then the last piece is about 9% government– mostly local government, then state government, which is almost $.5 billion in a given year, and then finally federal. And federal, if you looked at everything that the federal government invests in, it could be up close to $2 billion, but that includes the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center and our national treasures as well as even pieces of the military, and so on. If you just look at what is given out by the federal government to the rest of the nation, that’s under $150 million. There’s the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities on top of that.

In my opinion, it ought to be at least $1 billion that the arts should get…we have a national treasure and a contributor to the economy here in the arts, in the nonprofit arts, and it’s proven that we ought to invest in it.

Denver: Yes and that’s about 46 cents per capita, right?

Robert: For the arts, yes.

Denver: And you’ve been looking to get it up to a buck.


Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Lisa ShermanPresident and CEO of the Ad Council, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

lisa-sherman_largeDenver: When Americans talk about the classic and iconic public service ads from over the past 75 years, they might take note that they all have one thing in common: They were orchestrated and made possible by the Ad Council. And that glorious tradition continues today as the Ad Council brings attention to a cause, gets people to think differently about an issue, and ultimately changes their behavior. And it is a great pleasure to have with us this evening the President and CEO of the Ad Council, Lisa Sherman. Good evening, Lisa, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Lisa: Denver, thanks. It’s great to be here.

Denver: Give us a quick overview of the Ad Council, a bit about your history and your mission and goals.

Lisa: I’ve always been fascinated with the really rich history that the Ad Council has. We had our start back as the War Advertising Council because Franklin Roosevelt was quite a savvy president and understood the power of media. He looked to the media and advertising communities to help garner support for the war effort. And coming out of that, we saw things like “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” one of the most famous taglines ever, some war bond advertising, and at the end of the war– encouraged the industry to continue to do the good work around all-important social causes.

Denver: And you had some of the great iconic campaigns in history – Smokey the Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog. What were a couple of the others?

Lisa: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk,” “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” so some very iconic taglines and campaigns: The Crying Indian, in fact.

Denver: That was the first Earth Day, I think, right?

Lisa: Yes, it was.

Public service advertising is an ad that is to benefit society and the public good, and is used in donated media–free media–that media companies set aside for these important messages.

Denver: Before we dig into how the Ad Council works, first tell us what precisely is a public service ad?  And how does that differ from a commercial?

Lisa: Public service advertising is an ad that is to benefit society and the public good, and is used in donated media–free media–that media companies set aside for these important messages… unlike paid advertising which, of course, is paid.

Denver: I’ve always looked upon the Ad Council, Lisa, as one of the original collaborators– long before collaboration was fashionable.  It brought together different key players to create and execute a successful Ad Council campaign, and maybe we can speak about each of the players as we walk through the process. But first, tell us: how do you decide what social issues to choose and focus on?

Lisa: Well, Denver, as you know, there are no lack of important issues that affect our country. We work with an advisory board of researchers, educators, social scientists who really focus on what those emerging and important issues are. We consult with them and our board to identify those issues that we think can be impacted through communications.

Denver: And how many campaigns do you take on a year?


“Take Five” With Jake Porway, Founder and Executive Director of DataKind

It’s time for Take Five– a recurring feature of the Business of Giving with five or so quick questions posed to the leaders of philanthropy, business and social enterprise.  This week’s Take Five is with Jake Porway, the founder and executive director of DataKind.

You can also check the full interview here.


Denver: Five quick questions. You hate Word Clouds

Jake: Oh… do I ever!

Denver: Why?

Jake: I don’t think we can do this in a lightning round.  But I will say this: data is confusing. You want to communicate data to people in a way that gives them the “So what?” Word clouds to me are like the fast food of information communication. They are like deep-fried spreadsheets.  You look at a word cloud, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re those big words that you say, Obama speech said: “America” –biggest in the middle. And you feel good because it looks cool, and you can kind of understand it. But beyond knowing what the biggest word is, what do you get out of it?

Denver: Tells you nothing.

Jake: It tells you nothing. It doesn’t tell you anything about the sentences; you can’t tell what the content of something is just by the most number of words…

Denver: No, I look at the colors.

Jake: …colors. Yeah! And the colors mean nothing. It’s just a disgrace to actually conveying information…

Denver: Number 2: If you were starting a career as a data scientist and had only one program to work with, what would be your tool of choice, and why?

Jake: Oh, for the statisticians out there, I cut my teeth on R.  And it’s going to offend everyone that has ever trained me, or known me, to say that I think I would say–Python!

Denver: Wow.

Jake: Yeah. It’s a general purpose language; you can program most things, as well as do statistical computing. Start there, and then work your way up to R.

Denver: At DataKind you had a “no jargon” rule. How did that get started, and how do you enforce it?

Jake: Oh, great question! Well, we do use a patented NJR system that is the No Jargon Rule system. We basically make sure we get rid of acronyms across the board. The rule came into practice because our world is bringing together data scientists and social organizations. They’ve got their own terms that neither one knows. And very few people, as Henry Timms from the 92nd Street Y pointed out, who know what both an API and SDGs are. And if you’re scratching your head, this is because you’re probably on one side or the other. So we say…

Denver: I think many don’t know both.

Jake: Yeah! Fair enough, exactly. So, no one wants to be the dumb one.  So we tried to do that for them.

Denver: No, I’ve always put my phone under the table and looked it up. So nobody knew I didn’t know what it was.

Jake: Right on.

Denver: What is the coolest, or one of the coolest data maps you have ever laid your eyes on?

Jake: I’m so dry about this; there are so many flashy, cool data maps out there.  But I always go back to the practical. And I actually think of the old John Snow– cholera– Back then, if people aren’t familiar, it’s a very, very old map during the cholera outbreak. People were like: “How do we stop this?”

Denver: He started data science with that.

Jake: Exactly! He said: “Well, you know, let’s just plot on a map of London where cholera is happening.” And he found real density right around this one water pump. They went, pulled off the handle, and it’s still standing there as a testament to data saving lives.

Denver: And fifth question, final question. Something significant that you’ve changed your mind about in the last five years.

Jake: That’s a great one. I would have to say, I have really come around on–believe it or not–this big data thing. Funny, when I was coming into it, I was trained very much that you build models of as little data as possible.  And it was almost a badge of pride: if you can build a computer system that needs just a little bit of data. And, Lo and Behold!  Having way more data is way more helpful,  and you can learn much more about the world!  So, I switched over. That’s really a kind of wonky thing for the tech nerds out there, but…

Denver: It’s an important one.

Jake: It was a big one for me, for sure.

The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6 and 7 PM Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on I Heart Radio. You can follow us at bizofgive on twitter and at

David Wippman, President of Hamilton College, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between David Wippman, President of Hamilton College, Aron Ain, Member of the Board of Trustees, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

151211_hml_wippman_015cropDenver: There hasn’t been a Broadway show that has captured the public’s imagination in quite the same way that “Hamilton”  has.  And, Oh, about 250 miles northwest of Broadway, in Clinton, New York, there’s another Hamilton.  And this one has captured the attention of scholars, parents and students. It’s Hamilton College, named after the subject of that Broadway musical. And it’s a pleasure for me to welcome to the show the President of Hamilton College, David Wippman, as well as a member of their Board of Trustees, Aron Ain. Good evening, gentlemen, and thanks for being with us this evening!

David: Thanks so much for having us.

Aron: Yes, thank you.

Denver: David, for those listeners who may not be familiar with Hamilton College, tell us about the school and its history.

David: So, we like to say that before there was the musical, there was the college, and I’d say it’s about 200 years before. The college actually started as a project of a man named Reverend Samuel Kirkland in 1793.  And he set up an academy that was intended to educate the children of white settlers in the area, and the children of Oneida Indians. He went to George Washington for support for his educational plan and got his support, and that of Alexander Hamilton, who eventually lent his name to the college. The three chartered it as a college in 1812, and not too many years ago, we celebrated the bicentennial. So it’s a residential liberal arts college of about 1,900 students located in Clinton, New York.

Denver: Which is where?

David: Clinton, New York is about four hours from New York City. It’s about an hour, a little less, east of Syracuse.

What need-blind does is make it possible for anyone to apply to the college, whether they have an ability to pay the full tuition–or any tuition, in fact, or any fees–to go to the college.

Denver: Aron, let me ask you about something that is quite unique to Hamilton. There are not many colleges and universities that are “need-blind” when it comes to admission… three, perhaps four dozen in the entire country. What exactly does it mean to be need-blind and how did the school ultimately come to this decision?

Aron: Sure. Hamilton has always been a college that really takes very seriously its role in making itself available to students of all backgrounds, all abilities.  And as you know, colleges today are quite expensive. And so the college– part of its ethos– is that it wants to be as open and available to as many people as possible. So, what need-blind does is make it possible for anyone to apply to the college, whether they have an ability to pay the full tuition– or any tuition, in fact, or any fees– to go to the college. So the admissions department does not take into account whether someone has the ability to pay to go to school when we’re making decisions about who can come to the school.

Now, this is not easy to do. It really took the deep support of lots of people who love Hamilton, including the trustees and parents and staff and faculty and a broad group of supporters– that raised over $40 million, starting in 2010– to go and create an endowment to be able to make it possible for Hamilton to be need-blind. And today, Hamilton is completely need-blind. Anyone who gets in and has a demonstrated need… that they need financial support… can come and be part of Hamilton College

Denver: That’s absolutely fantastic. And this all happened spontaneously at a meeting here in New York at the Yale Club?

Aron: That’s right. So it was a dream of the leadership. The staff, the executive leadership of the school, the professionals, as well as members of the board wanted to do it and came up with how much it was going to cost.  And it was determined that it was going to cost about $2 million a year to be need-blind– the additional financial aid that was required.  And if you think about an endowment, it meant to raise about $40 million of endowed funds.  We thought how long would that take. And at that meeting, members of the board of trustees, one by one, raised their hand and said, “Let’s not wait. I’ll pledge this; I’ll pledge that; I’ll pledge this!” And before the meeting was over, there was enough money raised to get the need-blind started immediately. Really a wonderful moment!  And really a reflection of what the values of the school are!

Hamilton is preparing students for a lifetime of not just economic success and career success,… but we’re preparing them for lives of meaning and purpose, and that’s something that you can’t really put a price tag on.

Denver: Absolutely. That is a great moment in Hamilton history. Well, let’s talk a little bit, David, about the cost of college. As you know, in recent years people have questioned the value of a college education, and specifically, a liberal arts education. Accenture did a college graduate survey, and 51% of college graduates consider themselves to be underemployed. A Gallup poll recently came out indicating that 42% of Americans  believe college is not necessary for success.  That is a 13% drop from 2009. So, what do you make of these findings?  And what’s the case you would make today for getting a liberal arts education?

David: So, it may be true that college isn’t necessary for success, but I can tell you it’s an enormous advantage. And if you look at the data, what I think you’ll find is that there is a huge wage premium for anyone with a four-year college degree.  And the better the institution you attend, the more likely you are to benefit from that premium. I also would say to people, it’s probably a mistake to focus only on dollars and cents when you’re looking at return on investment. We are preparing students for a lifetime of not just economic success and career success, although we do do that, but we’re preparing them for lives of meaning and purpose.  And that’s something that you can’t really put a price tag on.

So, what I would say to parents or to students who are concerned about reports that you can’t do well with a liberal arts degree: The statistics don’t bear that out. Our graduates are doing great, and so are graduates of peer institutions. You may have to be a little bit more creative sometimes in your career search, but you are given the tools you need to succeed.  And you’re given the tools you need to have a really rich and productive life.

Denver: Very well said. And I think you’re also looking at nations who are looking at GDP and wondered how we ever got to the point where we measure the success of the nation based on GDP, and GDP alone. It really seems to be quite limited. Is the concept of a liberal arts education changing in the 21st century, where you are embedding engineering and computer science and so on, or is it still pretty much the classical one we all think of? (more…)

David Williams, President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between David Williams, the President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

david-williams6Denver: At a time when donors want a simple and straightforward understanding of how their contributions are going to be used, few organizations have a clearer or more compelling proposition than Make-A-Wish Foundation. And while everybody applauds the concept, far fewer people understand how it works, and what goes into granting these 14,000+ wishes every year. And to help us appreciate that a bit better, it’s a pleasure to have with us this evening, the President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, David Williams. Good evening, David, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

David: Thank you, Denver. It’s great to be here.

What I think is amazing is that those six individuals who made that happen didn’t just go back to their lives and say, “Well, we did a good thing for a kid.” They said, “You know what? I bet there are other kids like Chris out there!” And that’s when they started Make-A-Wish.

Denver: There is so much you can learn and tell about an organization and how it operates by the way it got started. What is the founding story of the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

David: You know, it’s amazing that back in 1980, there was a young boy by the name of Chris Greicius who had leukemia, and Chris had a favorite TV show. Some of our older viewers may remember it. It was called CHiPs. It was about two California highway patrolmen, and Chris always believed that when he grew up, that’s what he was going to do.

Well, as his condition worsened, a couple of his mom’s friends got together and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great for Chris to be able to experience something like those California highway patrolmen?” So, one volunteer sewed the uniform; another one contacted the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the long and short of it is that he had a day in uniform. He became the only Arizona honorary state trooper in their history… to this day. He rode in a helicopter, in the car, on a police motorcycle. Unfortunately, a few days later, he passed away. But what I think is amazing is that those six individuals who made that happen didn’t just go back to their lives and say, “Well, we did a good thing for a kid.” They said, “You know what? I bet there are other kids like Chris out there!” And that’s when they started Make-A-Wish.

Denver: That’s a wonderful story. There are different kinds of wishes that children make, like wishes to go somewhere. Run through them for us, if you would.

David: You bet. There are really four categories. And so as you mentioned, a wish to go, and so that could be Hawaii, a certain theme park in Florida or California… our good friends at Disney.


Kat Rosqueta, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at UPenn, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Kat Rosqueta, the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Denver: One the biggest reasons people don’t give more to charity is because they’re uncertain whether their contribution is having the desired impact. And in a nation where there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations, it can be a daunting enterprise for an individual to be sure that they are getting the most out of their charitable buck. But that is why we have entities like the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania to help navigate these philanthropic waters. And with us this evening is their Founder and Executive Director, Kat Rosqueta. Good evening, Kat, and welcome back to the Business of Giving!

Kat: Great to be here.

High impact philanthropy is the practice of trying to do the most good with the money you have.

Denver: Why don’t you begin by telling us:  Exactly what is high impact philanthropy? And give us an overview of what you do at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy.

Kat: Happy to. So, high impact philanthropy, for us, is the practice of trying to do the most good with the money you have. It’s characterized by four things. It’s a focus on the social impact.  So: what’s the positive change in the world you want to create?  It’s informed by what we say is the best available evidence. So, when you’re practicing high impact philanthropy, you’re really trying to build off of what’s already known, and push to create even more change. No surprise for a center that was founded by the School of Social Policy & Practice and the alumni of the Wharton School– which is the oldest collegiate business school. We always think “bang for the buck;”  that’s another aspect of practicing high impact philanthropy. And then the fourth is a real commitment to continuous learning. Some of the challenges that philanthropy is trying to tackle– these are tough– and it’s not like other people haven’t tried to address it before. One way to make sure you’re still making progress is really being open to learning and course correcting as you see you need to.

Denver: Does the center focus on any particular areas as you search for organizations that are making a meaningful impact?

Kat: Our mission is really to help all donors, and so the only reason we haven’t focused on certain issues is just a capacity issue. There’s nothing out of bounds. We’re probably best known for our work in global public health and development, as well as our work on domestic US children’s issues and education. But we’ve touched all sorts of topics, including hunger, homelessness, disaster relief, addiction. We don’t rank which is the best cause to give to. We think there are a lot of great causes that donors are and should be giving to. But whatever the cause, what we’re trying to figure out is: How can those donors’ funds do the most good?

It’s not really about the amount of the gift; it’s how well you’re giving so that you’re creating positive change. 

Denver: When people think about high impact philanthropy, they very well may be thinking of those billionaires, those mega donors, or those well-heeled foundations  really trying to fully leverage those big, big gifts. Can high impact philanthropy be practiced by just the average donor?

Kat:  Absolutely. That was one of the biggest, I think, misperceptions. When we started this center, people assumed that our guidance would only be useful for the billionaires. And we joke around the team that if we only cared about the billion-dollar gifts, we ought to be called the “Center for High Input Philanthropy.”  Because for us, we’re really focused on: What are the results?  We just released our annual High Impact Giving Guide, and you’ll see there are opportunities for people to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others for $2, $100. It’s not really about the amount of the gift; it’s how well you’re giving so that you’re creating positive change. 

What we find is that if we’re tapping all three sources of evidence — scientific research evidence, informed opinion, and field knowledge — that helps us really zero in on some of the best and most promising practices. It’s that overlap of evidence that we feel the most confidence in.

Denver: You talked a moment ago about one of your four pillars, and that was evidence– evidence of what’s working and what’s not. But as you know, evidence can have many different meanings to different people. What does evidence or evidence-based mean to the Center for High Impact Philanthropy?

Kat: We have a pretty broad definition of evidence, and part of our definition comes from the fact that we’re a multi-disciplinary center.  We are taking what we hope is the best thinking from law, from social science, from the hard sciences. For many people in this space, evidence is the results– the findings of randomized controlled trial studies– and that is the classic definition of scientific evidence. It is still the gold standard for understanding cause and effect, and attributing a certain effect to a particular cause or intervention. That’s great. For sure, when we see that kind of scientific evidence, we absolutely use it. But our guidance is meant to help folks in the real world… where there are lots of other different factors to consider… where there are not silver bullets or sure bets.

And so we borrowed definitions of evidence from our colleagues in public health, from the law school.  And that includes things– not just scientific evidence– but also looking at knowledge from the field. What is the wisdom and the learned experience of practitioners, of beneficiaries, of some of the funders who have been giving for a while? We’ll also look at what we call informed opinion. So this is the kind of knowledge that won’t get into an academic journal, but its good policy analysis can fit into that… great case examples. What we find is that if we’re tapping all three sources of evidence — scientific research evidence, informed opinion, and field knowledge — that helps us really zero in on some of the best and most promising practices. It’s that overlap of evidence that we feel the most confidence in.


The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of MDRC

Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving examining the best places to work among social businesses and nonprofit organizations.


Gordon Berlin

MDRC is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation — from reducing poverty and bolstering economic self-sufficiency to improving public education and college graduation rates. They design promising new interventions, evaluate existing programs using the highest research standards, and provide technical assistance to build better programs and deliver effective interventions at scale.

They are also one of the very best places to work in the nonprofit sector. Gordon Berlin, their President and CEO, was good enough to invite me up to their offices to speak to the staff of MDRC and learn what makes the organization so exceptional.

Below is a podcast from that visit. I want to thank all those who participated: John Hutchins, John Martinez, Sharon Huang, Kate Gualtieri, Patricia Weiss, Ada Tso, and Leigh Parise.

You will also find the podcast and transcript of my recent interview with Gordon Berlin from The Business of Giving.


Gordon: We want the people here to understand that their voice matters. I think it matters in several ways for us. We’re really concerned about our credibility, our reputation, the impact that we’re going to have, and we’re only as good as the next study that we do. Every person here has a role to play. We operate as a team and the final product is always a team product. So your role matters but also — and we have to work at this, we’re not perfect at it — but at least in terms of the goals as we’ve set it, your voice matters. We want to hear from everybody.

Leigh: People ask me all the time what I like about working in MDRC and my answer is immediately always for anybody I’m talking to who’s applying for a job here or just friends — is the people. I think that I work with people who are incredibly smart, incredibly thoughtful and incredibly caring people.


MDRC Staff

John: I’ve grown a lot in my career since I’ve been here. I’ve actually managed to do a lot of different things while I’m here. And everytime I’ve been interested in exploring something new or going off in a different direction, I’ve got a lot of support to be able to do that. And that’s been really important for me in terms of my career growth and my personal satisfaction with my job and I think it something that really drives my loyalty to the organization.

Sharon: I would echo my colleagues in that the thing I value most here is this shared commitment that we all have to this work. And kind of feeling like there isn’t anything more important that I could possibly be doing with my day. And so as a result in meetings, people are listening to each other and not just waiting for their chance to speak and I find that really inspiring and refreshing.

Kate: There is also something about the way that we do our work and the culture of the organization: we are a business but there’s also a really supportive culture and a flexibility to the way that we do our work. MDRC has been above and beyond supportive in my challenges in this year; allowing me to take some time off when I needed it.

John: We’ve developed this mentoring program here that pairs more senior people with newer people for a year. And I think it’s been a really great program because I’ve been a part of it and — of course a mentoring program you think, “Oh it’s all about the mentees, it’s all valuable for them.” But it’s been much more valuable for me to be able to learn from these younger people than anything I’m sure that I’ve ever been able to teach them.


Leigh: And so we have been something in the last couple of the years that are end-of-year policy area meeting where we’ve brought in a toy that’s gonna be donated or a book that’s gonna be donated and we’ve brought something that we said “your little kid self would like.” And so we got to go around the table and tell stories and get to hear from people who are recently out of college to people who’ve been here for 30 years. And they would bring in different toys and say: “This is the toy that when I was five, I would love to have and here’s why.” And it was just the time that we got to know our colleagues a little bit better and to hear different kind of stories than you would typically hear in a regular work day.

Sharon: So there’s a lot about our culture that kind of reminds me of like a great college for adults where — we’re very team-oriented culture and so we’re in meetings a lot. And we have this internal staircase, so I feel like there’s like a bell that rings at an every hour and then you see people migrating from conference room to conference room and you see your colleagues in the hallways, and their carrying their laptops and their notebooks. And then you see little gatherings of people in the lunchroom or in the hallways talking about the studies they’re working on.


MDRC Building Entrance

Patricia: Well, another thing that strikes me as interesting about this organization is, in addition to the mentoring program where we invest in people as well as the American Express Leadership Program that some individuals went to, we also look at individuals who we know have potential but may need a little bit more work on certain things and we provide them with executive coaches. And we work with them to develop certain skill sets to help them focus on what we think they need to improve upon to go to that next level. And not every organization would invest in that as well and I think that’s something, again, unique.

Ada: But I think one of the nice small company things that still happens is that there’s a lot of all-staff emails and I know that probably many people find it to be a burden on their already full inbox. But I actually really enjoy them, I really enjoyed the emails about how our bathrooms are not Port Authority and they need to be held to a higher standard, and I just love that it goes to the entire organization and emails about threatening about how if you don’t get your dishes out of the sink, they’re gonna be thrown away. But I don’t think that was actually a threat! So, I don’t know. I think those are the kinds of things that makes me feel like I still work at a little place, even though it’s in many ways that nonprofits has a lot of corporate elements and this corporate size, it can still feel like I’m working somewhere very familiar and cozy.

David Etzwiler, President of the Siemens Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick


The following is a conversation between David Etzwiler, President of the Siemens Foundation, and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


Denver: There was a lot of talk during the recent presidential election about jobs, specifically manufacturing jobs, and bringing more of those back to the United States. But for 21st century jobs in manufacturing and other sectors as well, you need a strong talent pipeline and an increased focus around workforce development, particularly training in science, technology, engineering and math–or STEM as it’s commonly called. There is no corporation or corporate foundation more dedicated to this than  Siemens. And it is a great pleasure to have with us tonight the President of the Siemens Foundation, David Etzwiler. Good evening, David, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

David:   Thanks so much, Denver. Wonderful to be here.

Denver: When you arrived at Siemens… I guess it was back in 2013, you undertook an effort to better align the vision and portfolio of the foundation with the people, products, and programs of the corporation. Tell us about both and how they work together.

David: Sure. Happy to do that. It’s a subject that I love to talk about. Well, I came in, as you said, in 2013, and as I responded to that job description, I sat down with the CEO of the company at the time.  And Eric really talked to me about the fact that the Siemens Foundation had had a wonderful first chapter. It had begun in 1997 focused on STEM, and the board felt very good about the outcomes. And they thought that there was a next level to get to, and we really talked about return on investment for the people that we serve. And as we had that conversation, I talked to him about what I had seen and experienced in corporate philanthropy over the years. I was at a large medical device company for about 13 years, and we had really moved some things fairly dramatically in terms of our alignment with the company. During that time, as a field, we really had moved away from this sense that: “No, you shouldn’t align from your business” to “No, that’s the moral imperative in fact!”

So, what we did  is talk about some models, and this is exactly what we did with the board of directors over the first year. We said, “Look, we’re looking for a sweet spot here: the overlap between social impact and the need to intervene in complex social issues that serve society, and align that with our business assets.” For us, it’s a German company, focused on STEM; a German company that has 10,000 apprenticeships in Germany annually; and then look at the experience and the expertise of the foundation as well. Those three lenses really were the guide for us, and that really took us on a conversation that brings us forward to today.

One of the things that we know as a society is that if we’re going to interest folks in STEM, that’s got to happen early on– and doing that in a way that is not merely textbook or a textbook exercise, but as hands-on science education.

Denver: Well, as you say, Siemens is committed to STEM education and training, from young students to adults in the workforce. So let’s run through some of those initiatives, starting with the youngest. You have a program, David, called “Siemens Science Day.”  What occurs on that day?

David: Siemens Science Day is a program that is really one of our longest standing programs in the foundation. It’s a wonderful program for a lot of different reasons. One of the things that we know as a society is that if we’re going to interest folks in STEM, that’s got to happen early on—and doing that in a way that is not merely textbook or a textbook exercise, but as hands-on science education. So it’s back to the best practices of what we know as a field, what educators and teachers tell us.

Essentially, what the Siemens Science Day is: these are modules that we put together with Discovery Education. They bring in educators from around the country that really serve as their advisory committee. They’re aligned with the national standards in science. These are modules that folks can go online, pull down, and when I say “folks,” I say, first and foremost, teachers can pull down. These can be in the field of wind power, for example, and they’re materials that can be easily assembled and cheaply assembled by those educators and engage kids. One of the great benefits that we have about Siemens Science Day is that our employee volunteers across the country pull those down regularly. They’re out in their local communities working together, team building, bringing kids into their shops, and running those modules. So it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to be a part of.

Denver: And is this geared for elementary students?

David: Elementary students and middle school students currently. We had just penned a contract to take that on to the high school level as well with Discovery, because one of the things we heard when we listen to our facility communities and our volunteers is, “Hey, we really want to engage at that high school level. Help us do that.” So that’s what exactly what we’re doing.