AM970 The Answer

Richard Tofel, President of ProPublica, Joins Denver Frederick

The following is a conversation between Richard Tofel, President of ProPublica, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.

Richard Tofel

Richard Tofel © ProPublica.org

Denver: There have been few industries that have been disrupted more in recent years than have newspapers and magazines. And as they fight to survive by cutting costs, one of the areas that many have jettisoned has been investigative reporting. And that’s not good for any of us. So what was needed was a new business model — a nonprofit one — to help carry on this work. And this is how ProPublica came into existence back in 2007. And with us this evening is the president of ProPublica, Richard Tofel.

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

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

Denver: Tell us about ProPublica and the mission and goals of the organization.

Dick: ProPublica, as you suggested, is a nonprofit investigative journalism newsroom. We print, publish everything on our own website at propublica.org but we also work with leading journalism organizations in partnership. And as you say, we’ve been publishing now for a little bit more than nine years.  We focus on investigative journalism in the hopes that it is a critical part of democratic governance in our society, revealing to people things that people in power don’t want them to know… that we hope that will make them more effective citizens.

Denver: Well, you have had a really sensational first decade of existence. How has your audience grown?  And how has the organization been recognized for some of its outstanding work?

Dick: We’ve been very fortunate. We’re now reaching directly on our site somewhere between two– we’re recording somewhere between– two and three million people visiting us in an average month.

Denver: That’s impressive.

Dick: Between four and five million pages of our material is read on our own site. And then, of course, there’s the material being read when the stories are published by our partners. We’ve had 149 journalistic partners, pretty much every leading news organization in the country. And in terms of recognition, thank you for asking, we’ve been fortunate enough to win four Pulitzer prizes… I think literally, half of the Pulitzer prizes awarded to digital journalism organizations so far.

Denver: Congratulations. Well, since the presidential campaign, Dick, last year, I know more people dialed in, and I’m following the news more than I ever have in my life. What has the impact of the Trump presidency been on your operations?

Dick: It’s been very, very significant. Traffic is up 40%, 50%, 60% one or two months… over 70% this year over the previous year. Funding has been up enormously. So, without drowning people in numbers, we had 3,400 donors in total in 2015. We had 26,000 in 2016. And so far this year, although most of that kind of activity occurs, or much of it occurs, at the end of the year…

Denver: True.

Dick: So far, in 2017, we’ve had more than 21,000 donors.

Denver: That’s fantastic. Let’s talk about trusting the media a little bit. Something that the president talks a lot about… actually, not trusting the media. It’s at an all-time low, but I would say that trust for almost all of our institutions are at an all-time low. You have said that many people very well may not trust the media, but they believe it. Share with us what you mean by that.

Dick: So, here’s what I mean about that. I certainly wouldn’t dispute the surveys about low trust in the media, and as you say, I think that extends across almost all of our institutions. My favorite example of this is the president’s approval ratings. The president’s approval ratings, as folks probably know, are the worst of any new president in our history. Already after just 200 days, the president’s low point in approval is lower than 7 of his 10 predecessors ever were across 42 years between them… of occupying the presidency.

So the question is: where are they getting the basis of the conclusion? So many people, a very substantial majority of the American people don’t approve of the president’s performance in office. And I think the answer is: they’re getting it from what’s being reported in the news media. I think frankly, that’s why the president is so frustrated. He is frustrated because he’s not getting a lot done. He’s not delivering on his promises, and the press is telling the American people that that is the case.

Denver: So, whereas people may say, “I don’t trust the media,” somehow it is having an impact in the responses to how is the president doing.

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Jacob Harold, President and CEO of GuideStar, Joins Denver Frederick

GuideStar is the largest platform of information about data for nonprofits.  In this segment, Jacob Harold, President and CEO of GuideStar, talks about how both individual donors and nonprofit executives leverage the data that GuideStar curates.  He also discusses the danger of “short-termism”– of thinking everything happens on a quarterly basis. He explains that if you’re trying to build a great company, it takes years or decades… and the same is true for social change.

The following is conversation between Jacob Harold, President and CEO of GuideStar, and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving, on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.


135d0bbDenver: It is a bit ironic that at a time when we have more information and data than at any other time in human history, our ability to predict the future and to make sound decisions has never been less. And one reason for that may be because not enough people are thinking about how to make this data accessible, meaningful, and truly useful. That is why the nonprofit sector is so fortunate to have someone like Jacob Harold, the President and CEO of GuideStar…who just happens to be with us now. Good evening, Jacob, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Jacob: I’m thrilled to be here, Denver.

Denver: Some listeners may never have heard of GuideStar. For those who have, they may be thinking: “Oh, Yeah, Yeah. The 990 tax form people.” So, let’s start by having you tell us what GuideStar is, and what you do.

Jacob: You bet!  GuideStar is the largest platform of information about data for nonprofits. And let’s just start by saying:  Why do we even care about having data about nonprofits?  And for me, it’s to address what I call “the elephant in the philanthropic room,” which is simply that some nonprofits are better than others.  Some are able to squeeze more good out of the dollars that they spend. It’s not necessarily that those that are not as effective are bad people, but they haven’t figured out the most effective way to do good in the world.

So the challenge that donors face and that nonprofit executives face…and researchers and government officials… is trying to find excellence in the field, to learn from it… to make sure it gets the resources it needs. And so GuideStar’s mission is to help in that process: to provide the kind of information so that the “stakeholders of social change”–the people who have a stake in the work of the nonprofit sector–are able to make good decisions with their time, and with their money,  and with their attention, with their passion. So, we provide data. And historically that’s mostly been, as you said, from the IRS Form 990, the tax form that most nonprofits are required to file. But we realize that that’s a very powerful foundation of data, but none of us would tell our own story through our 1040. And  we need to supplement that with other kinds of information to tell a richer story about nonprofits. And so that’s what we’re really trying to do at GuideStar right now.  And we’re having some success; we have about 7 million people each year who use GuideStar.


I had a chance to work for a whole set of different environmental organizations: Green Corps, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network. And I got to know dozens of others. And it became very clear to me in my early 20s that some of these organizations were simply far more effective. And it led me to a question: ‘Well, okay, how are we going to tackle a great challenge like climate change if we’re not sending money to where it can be most effective?’


 

Denver: That’s right. And you really get into the inner workings of all this data and how the whole philanthropic system works. Where did that come from? What kind of background did you have that instilled this into your DNA?

Jacob: In some ways, it came from the dining room table at the house I grew up in. Both of my parents worked for small community-based nonprofits. My mom worked at an AIDS hospice. My dad worked for Catholic Social Services, providing services to the poorest of the poor in our community. And so over the dining room table, I would hear about the struggles faced by those people who are devoting their lives to try and make the world better.  And these were my parents!

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

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

 

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Kate Roberts, Co-Founder of Maverick Collective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Perla Ni, CEO and Founder of Great Nonprofits

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

 

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Perla Ni, founder and CEO of GreatNonprofits

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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

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

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

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

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Mark Tercek and His Views On True Philanthropy and Nature Protection

Mark Tercek talks about the Nature Conservancy’s collaborative, science-grounded approach to land, water, and climate issues — embedded in the nonprofit’s DNA when it was founded 65 years ago to purchase and protect the Mianus River Gorge in upstate New York.

 

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Mark Tercek, President and CEO of TNC

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The following is a conversation between Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM970 The Answer in New York City. Mark here raises interesting insights about how our differences in approaches, science and data, collaboration, and even criticisms, among other things, can work for getting things done for the benefit of people and nature. Below is the full transcript of the interview:

Denver Frederick:    In a political season where each side appears to be more resolute and certain about the rightness of their cause, finding common ground seems to be more elusive than ever. So, it’s of particular interest that an environmental group has broken through in search of pragmatic solutions that work for all parties involved to protect the environment.  That group is The Nature Conservancy, and it’s a pleasure for me to welcome to the show their President and CEO, Mark Tercek.  Good evening, Mark. Thanks for being with us.

Mark Tercek: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Denver: Tell us about TNC, a bit about its history and the organization’s mission.

Mark:    TNC was born about 65 years ago here in New York. The Mianus Gorge is near the border of New York and Connecticut. Sixty-five years ago, some local scientists decided they wanted to protect the Mianus Gorge for science-based reasons. They were practical individuals. They said:  “What would be the best way to assure it would really endure?”  After considering a variety of options, they said, “Let’s just buy it.” They took out mortgages on their homes. They bought it,  and they were right. Sixty-five years later, the Mianus Gorge, now an independent preserve, is thriving. And that has been the spirit of TNC ever since –practical people driven by science, wanting to get things done in a way that will really stick. That’s a formula that really allowed us to grow a lot. People found it appealing, so we grew state by state across the US.

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