Author: denverfrederick

Dennis Whittle, Executive Director of Feedback Labs, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Dennis Whittle, Executive Director of Feedback Labs, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

 

picture-293780

Dennis Whittle

Denver: My next guest is a most interesting fellow– through his own life experience, and as a result of some of the institutions where he has worked. He has been able to re-imagine the world upside down, not in the top-down way that most of us are accustomed to, but rather bottom-up.  And he has thought about how to go about it and the implications it would have for the global society. He is Dennis Whittle, the Founder and Executive Director of Feedback Labs. Good evening, Dennis, and welcome to The Business of Giving. 

 

Dennis: Nice to be here, Denver. 

Denver: Tell us about Feedback Labs and what your organization does.

Dennis: Feedback Labs is a network of 200 organizations working in aid and philanthropy, who are dedicated to hearing what the people themselves want to make their lives better, and whether we’re helping them get it.  And if not, what should we do differently? 

Denver: Well, before we get into that work more deeply, I want to frame it if I can, Dennis, in a somewhat larger context. And I know you maintain an innovation– and I mean real transformative innovation that leads to disruption– occurs in waves.  And you see that occurring now in the philanthropic sector due to three things, three waves; two of which you’ve had a very prominent hand in.  So let’s briefly discuss each. The first is donor-advised funds.

Dennis: Donor-advised funds were pioneered in the late 80s and 90s,  and they are a way of making it possible for ordinary people to have foundations. You and I, Denver, can with a few thousand dollars create our own foundation. It can be the Denver Frederick Foundation and the Dennis Whittle Foundation. It’s enabled us to be ordinary Oprahs, as someone said; we can be Bill Gates. Donor-advised funds are a way that we can get professionalized services around our own giving. It’s a really pretty dramatic revolution in giving. 

Denver: The second wave of innovation is crowdfunding, of which you are a pioneer, perhaps the pioneer. Tell us about crowdfunding. 

Dennis: In the 80s and 90s when I worked at the World Bank, I noticed that if you were an expert, you could have your ideas heard and funded. If you were not part of the World Bank/ USAID foundation aristocracy, it was not possible to have your voice heard or your money used. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Mari Kuraishi and I left the World Bank to create GlobalGiving which was the first ever global crowdfunding website. Allowed anybody in the world with a good idea to pitch their idea and anybody in the world to fund it. That was five years before the word “crowdfunding” ever appeared on Google. 

Denver: That’s right! The final wave is feedback… which we just briefly discussed in the opening. So, Dennis, I want you to take these three waves of innovation together… What do you see as the changes that are going to occur as a result of the way that philanthropy is done around the world?

(more…)

Margaret Laws, President and CEO of HopeLab, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Margaret Laws, President and CEO of HopeLab, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer.

Margaret-Laws

Margaret Laws

Denver: We frequently discuss on the show how transformative change rarely occurs in any one field of endeavor, but rather at the intersection of where different fields meet. And at one of those crossroads where health, technology, neuroscience, and philanthropy come together, you’ll find a nonprofit organization by the name of HopeLab. And it is indeed a pleasure to have with us this evening their President and CEO, Margaret Laws. Good evening, Margaret, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Margaret: Good evening and thanks for having me!

HopeLab was formed actually to create the game that would help kids take their cancer meds at the frequency they were supposed to take them and ideally have optimal outcomes through their cancer treatment… Now, our expanded mission is to combine science, design, and technology to improve the health and well-being of kids and young adults.

Denver: Tell us the founding story of HopeLab, Margaret, and the mission and goals of the organization. 

Margaret: It’s actually a terrific founding story. So Pam Omidyar, wife of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, was working in a lab. She was working on some research and some challenges faced by kids with cancer. And what she was seeing and what they were seeing in the lab was that these kids with cancer… who were supposed to take chemotherapy for two years… were not taking all their meds. They weren’t taking all of their chemo meds, and they weren’t taking all their antibiotics, and they weren’t having the outcomes that we would hope they would have.

She was into video games – she was a gamer – and she thought maybe video games could play a role in helping get these kids to take their drugs, to take their full course of chemo. So she had this crazy idea, which is:  “Could a video game cure cancer?” And HopeLab was formed actually to create “the game” that would help kids take their cancer meds at the frequency they were supposed to take them… and ideally have optimal outcomes through their cancer treatment. 

Denver: And now your  expanded mission would be?

Margaret: Now, our expanded mission is to combine science, design, and technology to improve the health and well-being of kids and young adults. 

Denver: Fantastic! Now, before we get into more details and some of your specific programs and projects, why don’t you give us an overview of the state of health and wellness of young people in our country today. I think most people know it isn’t probably what it should be, but may not know much more than that. Tell us what it looks like. 

Margaret: It doesn’t look great. We’ve got significant problems with childhood obesity… with type 2 diabetes…at epidemic proportions.  And one of the things that we’re really focused on now that’s been a real challenge is mental and emotional health and wellness of kids. We’re really seeing challenges in the teen years, but all the way down into childhood. So there are a lot of things that are creating adversity for kids in our environment, and a lot of opportunities to engage kids and young people in helping to create better pathways for health and well-being.

So, we thought a lot about health and well-being of kids and young adults… what contributes to it, what’s detracting from it.  And our unique contribution is really to engage those young people in helping to create the solutions. 

Denver: Why don’t you walk us through the original game that Pam Omidyar helped create. It was called Re-Mission. How do you play that game?

(more…)

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of Ellevest

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


For our Better Than Most series of great workplaces, we not only go to nonprofit organizations but also to businesses that has social good embedded into their core operations. And one such place is Ellevest whose mission is to close the gender investing gap and whose offices are up at West 25th street in Manhattan. We’ll begin with their CEO, Sallie Krawcheck, and then hear from a few members of the team…

Sallie: All about the mission, all about the mission, and all about open, frank discussion and respectful debate. I knew that we had this right when our lead designers such as Melissa Collins…(What an enormously talented woman! And so important in the usability and the aesthetics of Ellevest!)… when we were interviewing her, she said she got chills. I said, “Done! This is exactly what we want to do! ” It enabled us not only to bring in someone like her, but our head product manager is from Weight Watchers, so that’s a great perspective. We’re working on being an enormously diverse group of individuals and diverse in every way.

F7C0969D-3EBF-4B26-AA0A-DFAEB4CE64C4

Alex: Part of our culture is that we hire world-class people to come in and to disrupt the industry. And so everybody that we hire, they tend to just sort of have this eagerness about them and they want to solve our problem at hand. Like we’re trying to close the gender investing gap here and it’s fun to sort of see these people who are the best at what they do in their industry come in and want to help us solve that problem.

Melissa: The mission gives us so much energy around here and especially when you’re stuck in a tough problem or you are having a difficult conversation. I think we all come back to the same place and we all know that we’re here to accomplish the same goal. And there’s a real sense of team that is unique to Ellevest. I haven’t experienced that anywhere else because I think that we really do stand together in our drive to build the best financial service to close the gender investing gap.

Sallie: Dug in for hundreds of hours of research with Elle, spending time with her, going through her financial statements, watching her interact with our emerging product online. And I would say that she co-created Ellevest with us, that archetypal client built it with us. So it’s not she’s at the center because we say it is. She’s at the center because we really built the product around her, and that really informs almost everything we do here.

Phoebe: Our most junior members are free to weigh in on bigger initiatives and ideas. And then it’s sort of up to each person who owns whatever part of the business they own to sort of evaluate all of that, reconcile any sort of conflicting feedback. Ultimately, there are some last words at the upper management level, but really sort of do what they think is best for the clients and the business.

Alex: One thing that we do that I guess you consider as a ritual is every couple of months, we get together as an organization and we review our core values. We go through them one by one and we ask ourselves, “Did we live up to this since the last time we met or did we not?”

Melissa: And so, we have an entire channel in our Slack where we’re constantly posting feedback emails from Elle and everybody has access to those. So everybody has really good visibility into what’s working for her and what’s not working for her so that when we are in a position to deliver feedback, I think we all have a better sense of what the user needs. Because the tendency is for all of us to imagine that we are her, but none of us really are because all of us in this room have more information about our product than she does and we have a perspective and an opinion that she doesn’t have. And so to be able to kind of constantly have that reinforcement of where she is and what she thinks and how she feels, I think it helps us navigate difficult conversations in ways that can be problematic in other circumstances.

We tend to use Slack more than we use e-mail. I think it is helpful because stuff doesn’t get lost in inboxes, but…we slack all the time.

Phoebe: So there’ll be sitting on the floor and it’s sort of a time for us to sort of just go [on a] high level overview of our success metrics for the previous week, that sort of helps with the culture of transparency. And I think with this small, highly communicative team, transparency is sort of an inevitable by-product of that. So it’s not even like really worked explicitly into our values, it’s just sort of how we operate. It’s almost like an implicit sort of rule, I guess.

Sallie: It’s not an easy place, I would say. We so believe in what we are doing and that we won’t hire somebody unless they believe in what we’re doing and truly believe that we can affect real good in this world. That’s a high bar, and then they have to be excellent at what they do. And I have to tell you, when someone starts here, they have to prove themselves, and I don’t want to sugarcoat that at all. That there is a view of “OK, let’s get in the game and care about this and work hard for this.”

And so what’s really fun to have evolved are these stories of the team over time and what are those shared stories that we laugh about and talk about, what’s the fabric of them, what is the first really dumb prototype we put out there–so many that did not work that we were so proud of.IMG_1604


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving/.

Lee-Sean Huang, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Foossa, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Lee-Sean Huang, Co-founder and Creative Director of Foossa, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. 

 

…our point of view is that the people who are stakeholders who are using the services and products that surround us should have some say in the way that they’re designed, because they’re often experts of their own context, experts of their own communities. And these services can be more robust and work better for people if they have a say in designing them.

Denver: I was over at the Measured Summit recently, where they were addressing the impact of human-centered design on healthcare, and I connected with Lee-Sean Huang, who is the Co-founder and Creative Director of a company called Foossa. And he has been good enough to join us on the phone this evening for a few minutes. Lee-Sean, tell us about Foossa and what you do.

Lee-Sean: Hi, Denver! Thanks for having me. So Foossa is a community-centered design and strategy practice. We are based here in New York City, and we work with diverse communities to work together and to design the future. We primarily work in a field called service design. So if you think about how our world today is not just based on physical products, it’s based on services that deliver value. Just like a DVD or Blu-ray might be a product, but your Netflix or your Hulu is a service that still delivers you your content. We’re looking at the services that surround us in the world. These days primarily, we’re working on public services although we also work with startups and with corporate clients as well.

But our point of view is that the people who are stakeholders who are using the services and products that surround us should have some say in the way that they’re designed, because they’re often experts of their own context, experts of their own communities. And these services can be more robust and work better for people if they have a say in designing them.

download

Lee-Sean Huang

Denver: Exactly. Well, one of the things you do is you use design to build community-based participation that will ultimately become movements or networks for good. Tell us about how you go about that, Lee-Sean, and give us an example of one, if you would.

Lee-Sean: Sure! So, I have a hybrid background in both design and activism. Prior to starting Foossa, I was part of a design practice at a consultancy called Purpose, which was also working to build social movements. It was a creative agency that was started by social activists, and then I also worked as an in-house designer in several nonprofits before that.

So part of what we do through design to build participation is one thing we call “the ladder of participation,” so thinking about how somebody goes and becomes a more robust member in something. So if you think about an online community, the first thing might be looking at a piece of content on social media like a tweet, a Facebook post. The next level of commitment or of engagement could be liking that thing, could be commenting on that thing or even following you. And then from there, you could think about things that are higher barrier to do like joining your e-mail list, maybe even making that transition from online engagement to something offline like going to an event. So we use this as a planning tool, this ladder of engagement, to figure out ways that people kind of grow in a community through a sequence of calls to action.

Another design technique we do is designing things that are not so perfect, that are unfinished. I mention design and people often think about design or designer to mean something that has a lot of artifice, that has a lot of polish to it. [It becomes] designer jeans or designer-interior design. But a lot of what we do, even though we work in the tech space, starts out very low-fi. It just involves doing paper sketches with people in a workshop so that people who don’t have a design background, who don’t have a tech background can participate in the design of what an app might look like, what one site might look like. And so that designing for imperfection is a way of inviting people in to participate in the process. And so that requires designers to be more like hosts and facilitators rather than these distant experts with our hipster glasses.

Denver: Exactly! Interesting. Well, give us an example of one that you’ve done for social good.

download (1)

Lee-Sean: One of our recent projects is called Design for Financial Empowerment, and it’s in collaboration with the Parsons School of Design and the New York City government and various nonprofit partners and funders. We are working on a city project where New York City actually offers free financial counseling for anybody who lives and works in the city. You call 311 and you book an appointment. You meet in person with a financial counselor and you can discuss anything from how to open up a bank account if you’re a new immigrant to things like “I’m an entrepreneur and I’m trying to pay down my debt and get out of debt.” So it’s a variety of different people. And they have found in the data prior to us working on this project that there’s a direct correlation between retention and outcomes. So the more sessions you go to your counselor, the more you work with your counselor, the more likely you are to meet your own financial goal, whether it’s getting that mortgage or paying down your debt or whatever that is.

But in a lot of cases, people who are in financial trouble also have other things in life. They may have families, kids, other commitments and so they don’t always come back to their appointments. So we had been working with the clients and the counselors as well as administrators in the city to co-design ways to increase retention. And that’s basically around this idea of how do you create a community and also how do you provide wayfinding. So what the community did, even though financial topics are often very personal, how do we create this feeling that people aren’t alone. It’s not just this one-on-one relationship between a client and a counselor, but that they’re part of this larger community of people who are trying to work on their financial situation, their financial empowerment.

And then on the other hand, we’ve also been working on wayfinding across different media, too. We’ve designed a couple of different interventions that have now been prototyped and are being tested around the city. Some of them are fairly low-fi but necessary. Like we design what we call a journey map, and it’s essentially a little fold-out card like you get or a subway card that helps show the journey towards financial empowerment. And it sets an expectation like having at least three appointments to begin with, to see how many appointments you might need and helps explain this process a little bit more. And we both have been experimenting with more high-tech interventions as well, like interactive videos that could be sent to clients before their first appointment, and a video, sort of mini-documentaries of other clients and their counselors, to give just sort of some emotional baseline to what it’s like to work on this financial counseling and to be inspired by other people’s stories as well.

Denver: Great. Finally, let me ask you about the Awesome Foundation where you are a founding trustee. What is their mission and how do they operate?

Lee-Sean: Well, the Awesome Foundation was started by some friends of mine, and they invited me to start the New York chapter with them. And basically what we do is we forward the cause of Awesome in the universe, or at least in the New York chapter in the New York tri-state area. And so we give out $1,000 micro-grant every month, no strings attached, to Awesome projects. And so it’s everything from–our very first grant was a guy who runs a nonprofit called BioBus and he was building this laser beam microscope thing and he was taking it around to schools around the city to show kids microorganisms, and you could shoot these lasers at the microorganisms. It wouldn’t hurt them, but it would hold them in place.

There’s another grant we gave to a guy who started a new ritual called “Nametag Day.” And the idea is that one weekend in the summer, they pass out nametags on the streets in New York and also now in San Francisco and a couple of other cities around the world, and it just encourages people to talk to strangers and introduce themselves. So it changes the social dynamics of things. 

So a lot of these projects are kind of fun or kind of community-oriented, and it’s all our own money, actually. So we each contribute $100 per trustee every month. And then we have a database where we collect these applications. And then we just decide through voting and consensus building who we give the money to and then we send them a check. So anybody can apply at awesomefoundation.org.

Denver: That’s right. And all these projects are awesome! Well, thanks for being with us, Lee-Sean. If people want to learn more about Foossa and the work you do, your website is?

Lee-Sean: It’s foossa.com. Thank you so much for having me, Denver!

Denver: Great! Well, it was my pleasure.


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving/.

Earl Lewis, President and CEO of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Earl Lewis, President and CEO of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Denver Frederick, Host of the Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

lewis-e_crop.jpg__260x335_q85_crop_upscale

Earl Lewis

Denver: As the arts, humanities and liberal arts have fallen out of favor in recent decades, they have known no better friend, no more loyal friend than the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. And it’s a great pleasure to have with us this evening their President and CEO, Earl Lewis. Good evening, Earl, and welcome to the Business of Giving!

Earl: Thank you! My pleasure.

Denver: Tell us about Andrew Mellon, the person, and the foundation that bears his name.

Earl: Andrew Mellon had his origins in Pittsburgh. His family of Irish immigrants had moved to the Pittsburgh area. By the late 19th century, they had tried a number of things, and they moved into banking.  So it was the father and two sons. Andrew was one of the two sons. And if you think of the late 19th century, if you think of Pittsburgh– in particular the rise of the industrial era, and people like Carnegie and others who were in their midst– they actually went into a “new world” – what we think of today as venture capital. They actually would make loans to enterprises through their banks and then recoup the dividends on the backside as those enterprises developed. Think of Gulf Oil. They were early investors in Gulf Oil among other kinds of enterprises.

And if you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers,  there is a chart where Malcolm attempts to identify the wealthiest human beings of all time. And you realize that there’s a name: Andrew Mellon.  They are among the top 10 or 11 individuals, well above Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and not too far from some of the others that you think of as among the wealthiest. Andrew Mellon would then go on to become the Treasury secretary in the 1920s. He would go on to create the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. He would die in the 1930s. And then his children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce had two separate foundations as they inherited wealth from their father’s estate: the Avalon Foundation and Old Dominion Foundation. And in 1969, while the kids didn’t always agree on everything, they agreed to merge their two foundations and rename it for their father. Hence, it was born in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Denver: And when you arrived there about four years ago, I don’t know if any foundation could have had a much lower profile than the Mellon Foundation did. It had a very static website; you had no communication staff whatsoever, and really not much of a public face at all.  But you’ve changed all that. What have you done?  And why do you think it was important to do it?

Earl: At the foundation, we had come to realize that in the 21st century, one needed to have a slightly larger footprint in the digital world. Several of our grantees will come and say to us later, “Look, we value the support you grant us through your dollars, but we need you in another way. We need you to be more visible, and in some cases, to actually step into the limelight or the spotlight to ensure that the work we do is actually considered important.”

We heard them. As a result, the decision was made that certainly we needed to do something with our website. It was as much a spider web as anything because things had been stuck there for a long, long, long, long time. And we realized with that portal, we could begin to communicate not only something about our mission and our values, but also more about our grantees. And I think of all the things I did like in pointing out, when people turn to the website, at the bottom of the homepage is now a listing of every grant that we’ve made since the inception of the foundation in 1969– mapped not only by the amounts and the topics, but also geographically.  And you get some sense of flavor of who we are and what we’re about.

…there’s a way in which art… dramatized on stage… can tell us about our past, and provide the insights into the present in ways that even the most beautifully written book, or the most well-executed speech, never can.

Denver: That’s great. Well, you have to have a voice in today’s world; you can’t just be writing checks. Well, the foundation fervently believes that arts and humanities play such a vital role in democracy and help promote understanding of different peoples and cultures. Tell us about some of your work here and some of the projects that you have funded.

(more…)

The Business of Giving Visits the Offices of The Humane Society of the United States

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


Wayne Pacelle: We’re taking on puppy mills and dog fighting, things that many people have heard about, your listeners have heard about, but also factory farming, seal hunting, commercial whaling, horse slaughter, horse soring, greyhound racing. It’s a wide range of issues, a big set of problems…

IMG_1416Katie: And so through our pets in the workplace program and through colleagues who had been through the program, my dog now comes with me to work every single day and is happy. He’s content. He has some favorites around the office. We have a dog park out back and anybody can go to it and bring their dog and just kind of romp around, and so that’s just one little perk that helps me and it helps me to refocus.

Julie: One thing that strikes me about working here is if you are driving to work and you find an injured baby bird on the side of the road or there’s a stray dog down professional drive, all you need to do is send out an all staff email the minute you get here, and there will be an army of people helping out and that’s a really great thing.

Emily: We also have an award-winning recycling program and we also compost—I’m on the compost committee—so we try to make sure we are leaders for the environment as well.

Another thing that we have is a chalkboard. It’s actually that paint that creates a chalkboard so we can write in things that we are grateful for. We feature an employee of the month on that chalkboard; ideas, so it really creates and fosters a culture of collaboration, like I said, and appreciation for one another.

Sara: …they can identify the bird. They can probably talk about what the diet the bird needs. They’ll know what the habitat is. They know where exactly to put it. They need to know if it’s climate controlled or how long it can be released or where should it go. So there’s just really this expertise that’s not tapped into anywhere else, and I get great pride from that. It makes me proud to work here. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger or potentially part of that collective. So those are some of the ways that I think the corporate culture influences one of [unintelligible].

Katie: there really is no time clock. We work weekends, we’ll work nights. It’s because we love the job and we love the work that we do. And without those crazy nights or early mornings, driving puppies from [Dallas] to Angels of Assisi, without that the job doesn’t get done. We’re not here because of a paycheck. We’re here because this is our life.

Sara: So my dog is also an HSUS special. He’s from one of our rescues. When I look at him, what it exemplifies to me is the 100% commitment. That’s what I always say about the culture, is that it’s 100% commitment. If we’re going to intervene in something, it’s all the way, it’s every resource we have, it’s going to be applied.

Jill: It can be very lonely sometimes, you’re basically the only HSUS employee in the state, but it’s also there’s a lot of pressure because you are the face of the HSUS in your state. But I think that everyone in Gaithersburg and the D.C. office does a wonderful job in making sure that state directors feel included and an integral part of the organization, and do everything they can to help them achieve their mission and help them to feel not quite so lonely and isolated out there in their states.

IMG_1411

John: A few years ago, actually, where there was a cockfighting ring raid and these animals needed to be held until the case came up where it was going to be resolved.

But throughout that time, again, it was rewarding to actually go in there and feed these animals and clean out their cages, basically things like that given that what they had gone through, you felt connected obviously to them, and each one of them had different personalities.

Chris: We recognize that all animal suffer and all animal feel pain, and that they all deserve our time and attention, and I’m so grateful for that because everyone is on board with it. No one ever gives you a sideways glance when I tell them I work for chickens and pigs. Everyone is supportive and knows that the work we’re doing across the board is crucial.

I also like that the staff here are generally not obsessed with attention and individual credit. Of course, every human being has an ego, but I think we all realize that what’s really going to matter at the end of our life is how much did we advance the ball for animals? How much did we reduce animal cruelty and create a better world? So it’s very refreshing to work in that kind of environment.

 

Sara: I tell you what Wayne provides is tenacity. So he leads by example. I think he sets pretty clear expectations. But he’s tenacious in his fight, and so in the fight for what he believes that HSUS does and so I think in that respect, as a leader, he provides great vision and a good foundation for everybody who’s here.

IMG_1400


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving/.

Lisa Brown Alexander, President and CEO of Nonprofit HR, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Lisa Brown Alexander, President and CEO of Nonprofit HR, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Lisa-Headshot-132x160@2x

Lisa Brown Alexander

Denver: The nonprofit sector more than just about any other industry depends upon people. For many nonprofit, there’s no product; just the human capital provided by staff and employees. So the importance of creating cultures where people can thrive and do their best work, not to mention building organizations that will attract the very best talent – well, that cannot be overstated. And that is where the firm Nonprofit HR steps in. And it’s a great pleasure to have with us this evening their President and CEO, Lisa Brown Alexander. Good evening, Lisa, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Lisa: Thank you so much! Glad to be here.

Denver: Tell us about Nonprofit HR and the work that you do.

Lisa: Well, Nonprofit HR is a full-service talent management firm that works exclusively with the nonprofit sector. So, essentially, our job is to help mission-driven organizations attract, develop, and retain the very best talent that money can buy.

…the most progressive organizations are intentional about how they bring talent into their organizations; they’re purposeful about making sure those people are engaged and connected to their work; and they also are mindful in allocating resources to make sure that those people can develop.

Denver: And what are some of the things that those most forward-thinking nonprofits are doing to attract and keep that talent, and create exceptional work cultures?

Lisa: Well, honestly, being mindful of the importance of talent. It sounds so simple and talent represents such a large part of most organizations’ budgets, yet so many organizations pay very little attention to the people who do the work. And so, honestly, the most progressive organizations are intentional about how they bring talent into their organizations; they’re purposeful about making sure those people are engaged and connected to their work; and they also are mindful in allocating resources to make sure that those people can develop. Doesn’t mean they’ll get promoted from assistant to manager to VP in three years or less, but it does mean that while those folks are there, their experiences will be enriching and meaningful and purpose driven.

Denver: That’s a great point you make. I think so many nonprofits are so focused on the mission and the program that they forget about the people, and I think those others who are probably so close to the bone and are trying to keep their doors open, they don’t understand that if you don’t develop these people…well, actually there’s options now. You can go to these social good companies that have purpose, so we don’t have quite the exclusivity on doing good anymore that we did perhaps a decade or two ago.

Lisa: Absolutely! And you raised a really good point, because the nonprofit sector is facing competition and they’re facing competition from entities that are well funded, that are startups that have excitement and energy around them. And that makes for a tough sell sometimes. If you’re that nonprofit working on the bone, writing on both sides of the paper, it can be really hard to position your organization against that social good organization that’s funded by a corporation.

Denver: You’re absolutely right. Well, your work touches so many different areas, Lisa – diversity and inclusion, performance reviews, the millennial workforce and others. Is there anyone or two things that are on your radar these days?

Lisa: I think the thing that’s most on my radar is the importance and the intersection between talent, culture and mission and sustainability. Those four points are really, really critical. I can’t say enough about what I think is the importance of paying attention to talent, making sure that you have a healthy mission in order to achieve the very thing that you said you want to do in the community.

So if you’re a social service agency and you’ve got 40% turnover and folks are constantly revolving in and out of the organization, it’s pretty likely that there’s some impact on mission and service delivery to that clients and the communities that you are intending to serve. There’s a correlation between all of those points. And really that’s the thing that’s burning in my soul lately, which is one of the reasons why we’ve created the Nonprofit Talent & Culture Summit. So, we’re excited about that convening happening in April, and it’s really to help organizations think through their people strategies and to leverage their culture in a way that it advances their mission.

Denver: Tell us a little bit more about the summit. When it is going to be and who are some of the people who are going to be participating?

Lisa: Well, the summit is taking place in Washington DC, April 5-7. And we’ve got over 30 workshops and seminars, all focused on talent and culture issues through the lens of a nonprofit. And so we’ve got a number of keynote speakers including one of my favorite CEOs–I’ve been stalking him for years–Billy Shore, who’s the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Share Our Strength…

Denver: You can’t do any better than that! That’s a great get, congratulations!

Lisa: Oh, yes! He’s fabulous and excellent speaker, and really a dynamic leader. And he’s going to be talking about the importance of leadership to the talent value proposition in nonprofits. We’ve also got Lori Malcolm, who’s the Chief Culture Officer of the United Way Worldwide. And then we decided to take a slightly different turn by inviting a rabbi by the name of Rabbi Goldberg. He runs an organization called Kids Kicking Cancer and he’s going to wrap up the conference with an inspirational, motivational piece around the connection between people and the communities that are served, and the young people in his organization that are trying to beat cancer. An amazing mission.

Denver: Fantastic! Well, this is your second conference, and it really serves a tremendous purpose for the nonprofit sector and that we’re all so glad that you’re doing this. Well, Lisa Brown Alexander, I want to thank you for taking the time to be with us this evening. For people who want to learn more about Nonprofit HR and its upcoming summit you just spoke about, what is your website?

Lisa: Our website is www.nonprofithr.com. For information about the summit, it’s www.nonprofittalentsummit.com. We’re also on the web, on social, on Twitter @nonprofit_hr and of course on Linkedin.

Denver: Great! Well thanks so much for appearing on the program, Lisa. It was nice to have you on the show.

Lisa: My pleasure. Thank you!


The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter and at facebook.com/business of giving.

Raj Kumar, Founder and Editor of Devex, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Raj Kumar, Founder and Editor of Devex, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Denver: We frequently talk to practitioners from the international development community on The Business of Giving about their work around an issue or in a particular country. But it is useful to take a step back now and again to look at this $200 billion industry from a broader perspective so we can put this work into a larger context. And there is no one better suited to do that for us than my next guest. He is Raj Kumar, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Devex. Good evening, Raj, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Raj: Well, thank you for having me, Denver!

Denver: Tell us about Devex, and the purpose and goals of your organization.

Raj_Kumar

Raj Kumar

Raj: So since we’re here in New York, I think everybody knows Bloomberg. We’re a lot like the Bloomberg of the global development field… meaning we’re this media platform; we’ve got all different ways that journalists and analysts around the world could get information about what’s going on in global development to the people who are actually doing that work. So our audience are people who work at the World Bank or the Gates Foundation or the UN System or lots of NGOs, charities– small and big– all over the world.

Denver: Fantastic! Well, give us a sense of how this international system works and how the different pieces connect. We have the Peace and Security Architecture that is having an incredibly difficult time at the moment. You have a humanitarian system, which is certainly being overwhelmed with 125 million displaced people, and of course, the international development community. How does this system work? And how do these parts relate to one another?

Raj: I look at it as kind of a big bowl of spaghetti. It’s not a simple, clear map that you can draw and say, “There’s this group over here doing this work, and this group over there doing that work.” The lines are fuzzy. They’re blurry and they connect in complex ways.

So, you said in the beginning, it’s a $200 billion industry. And I think the easiest way to think about it is to think of it as an industry. Not that we’re not out there to do good in the world. These are charities and mission-driven organizations, but it is, in a sense, a business. It’s, in a sense, an industry. And so, if you think about it at that really high level, you’ve got official money– which means basically taxpayer money going through agencies like US governments, USAID, or through UN agencies like UNICEF. Then you’ve got private organizations. Some of them are funded by average people giving donations to church. Some are funded by wealthy billionaires like the Gates family.  And you’ve got lots of nonprofit organizations of all stripes around the world.

You put all that together, it’s this complex spaghetti bowl that all somehow works. It’s kind of magic, at the end, if this works. Sometimes it doesn’t as well as it should. But I think that’s sort of the way to look at it. And yes, you’ve got some divisions. You’ve got this idea that there’s a humanitarian sector, which is different from development. Although, increasingly, those two things are kind of pushed together.

The idea of humanitarian is: there’s an emergency. There’s a crisis. There’s suddenly an earthquake, a flood, a political crisis, and you need to get in there and help people. Give them the medicine, the food they need right away – that kind of emergency work. There’s still absolutely a different kind of work-around, a different kind of practice and discipline. The people who do that are different from the folks who do long-term economic development. But your average person who’s a refugee today has been a refugee for 17 years. So, sometimes these crises aren’t really what we think of as a short-term emergency. It’s not something that just came up like: your house got flooded. These are longer-term issues. So the line between what is humanitarian and what is development has sort of blurred and gone away to a degree.

So, lots and lots more people realize there’s this idea of global development, this idea that much of the world is still living in poverty while much of the world is doing well and pretty wealthy, and we need to find a way to lift people up and change that trajectory.

Denver: Like every other part of our society, everything is beginning to blur. We had Ken Roth of the Human Rights Watch on the show recently, and he traced a remarkable growth in the human rights field over the past couple of decades. And it has been no less remarkable in the field of international development, which as you said and I said, a $200 billion industry. Tell us how this has evolved from when you started, Raj, back in 2000.

(more…)

Grant Oliphant, President of Heinz Endowments, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Grant Oliphant, President of Heinz Endowments, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Grant Oliphant

Grant Oliphant

Denver: My next guest is one of the more thoughtful voices in the philanthropic sector, speaking out on issues of public importance and concern where so many others have failed to do so. And he puts those words into practice in his laboratory… which just so happens to be the Greater Pittsburgh community. He is Grant Oliphant, the President of the Heinz Endowments. Good evening, Grant, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Grant: Denver, thank you so much for having me.

Denver: The Heinz Endowments, as the name suggests, is more than just one. Tell us about that and your current mission and focus.

Grant: It’s actually one foundation today, but it started out as two, started by separate members of the Heinz family. The money, as the name suggests, came from the ketchup fortune. That empire began in Pittsburgh a hundred years ago and produced $1.5 billion today in philanthropic resources that the family has put to use primarily for the benefit of Pittsburgh. It’s a global family though, so they really would like it to be used in a way that benefits people in other parts of the country and other parts of the world.

Denver: And speaking of that family, there’s now a new generation of leadership.

Grant: We are navigating a generational transition. Many family foundations struggle with that; ours has been, I think, pleasantly exemplary. This is a family that has had a consistent set of values down through the generations. Henry J. Heinz who founded the company was one of the people who fought for the Pure Food Act and wanted to do the right thing by employees, and wanted to do the right thing by consumers.

Denver: Ahead of his time.

Grant: Way ahead of his time. Actually, it’s becoming timely again because of what we’re facing now. But the family has carried those values down through the generations, so it’s remarkably smooth.

When we look at the future of economic growth, what we’re seeing is that actually many of the opportunities for future economic activity lie in the environmental realm.

Denver: Well, when you assumed the helm at Heinz a few years ago, you refocused your efforts around social justice – and by that, I mean embracing fairness and equity. And you do this through three different portals: sustainability, creativity, and learning. So let’s look at each of those, starting with sustainability, Grant.  And that’s more than just the environment, correct?

(more…)

Phil Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Phil Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Givng on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

henderson-phillip-600x600

Phil Henderson

Denver: It was 100 years ago that John Emory Andrus created the Surdna Foundation to make access to opportunity available to one and all.  And that tradition has continued now for five successive generations. On this occasion of their centennial anniversary, it is a great pleasure to have with us this evening the President of the Surdna Foundation, Philip Henderson. Good evening, Phil, and welcome to The Business of Giving!

Phil: Great to be with you!

Denver: So, tell us about John Andrus, how this all got started back in 1917, and some of the key milestones of the Surdna Foundation over the course of the last hundred years.

Phil:  Well, it’s exciting to think that we’re at 100 years, but John Andrus is someone that most people have never heard of before. But he was a self-made millionaire back in the late 1800s… into the early 1900s, and he did a couple of different things. One is that he developed an elixir called “peptonoids,” precursor to Pepto-Bismol, made a bunch of money from that.  He developed a lot of natural resources and then decided in 1917 to leave effectively half of his fortune to charity through the Surdna Foundation– which was the inversion of his name “Andrus” – Surdna. And the first thing that the foundation did was to build an orphanage in honor of his wife who had been an orphan.  Then it built a nursing home across the street. Both are still functioning up in Hastings-on-Hudson, just north of Yonkers, on Broadway.

Denver: Well, let’s briefly examine the kind of programs that the Surdna Foundation supports, and they really fall into three main categories. The first is the Sustainable Environments Program.  What you’re doing here is taking a fresh look at our crumbling and old infrastructure. Tell us about this “new generation infrastructure” initiative that you have.

Phil: So we’ve always approached our environmental work from the point of view of how people experience the environment. So, we have not been so interested in wetlands or saving trees in the forest, but really understanding how people and the environment interact. And so that led us to really  think about the built environment around people– particularly in our urban areas where that infrastructure, as you say, has been crumbling– really needs a rethink, a reinvention.  So we’re actually thinking about how we’re building our cities, how we’re building our urban areas for the future. And so we’re using less energy, allowing people to have more walkable lives, allowing people to experience their communities in a different way.

Denver: Water management… and things like that.

Phil: Water management, where they get their food, how energy is produced – all of these things… really thinking toward the future.

Denver: The other thing you’re doing is you’re trying to create Strong Local Communities, and this is probably guided by, more than anything else, your commitment to social justice and equity.

(more…)