Florida Governor and Cabinet Honor Florida Community Foundations

Yesterday I was honored to accept a resolution passed by Florida’s Governor and Cabinet honoring Florida’s community foundations for “their service to communities all across the state.” The resolution was introduced by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at the April 22 Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, and approved by Governor Rick Scott, Commissioner Putnam and the other members of the Florida Cabinet, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

The resolution also congratulated the community foundation field on its centennial anniversary. The first community foundation was created in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. Continue reading

The Power of Grantee Feedback

Almost all grantmakers struggle with figuring out the most effective ways to gather feedback from their grantees. And for those that have mastered the data-gathering piece, understanding how to successfully take that feedback and make changes internally is an even steeper uphill battle.

More than 35 grants managers from around Florida came together online and in person on Thursday, April 17 for a webinar on this topic. The webinar was presented as a joint partnership between the Florida Chapter of the Grants Managers Network (GMN) and the Florida Philanthropic Network (FPN). Three presenters took the stage to explain best practices around gathering feedback and how the responses they have been able to gather through both formal and informal survey methods have had significant impacts on how they operate. Continue reading

Legislation That Nonprofits and Funders Can Endorse

Note: The following column written by David Biemesderfer, President & CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network, and Rena Coughlin, Board Member of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on March 23, 2014:

David Biemesderfer, President and CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network:

In January, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced his legislative proposal to revise Florida’s laws regulating charities and charitable solicitations. His proposal is in response to the Tampa Bay Times’ “America’s Worst Charities” investigative report from last year, which highlighted the unscrupulous practices of for-profit telemarketers used by some charities to solicit donations. Eleven of the charities on the Times’ list of the country’s 50 Worst Charities are in Florida, more than any other state.

Although the vast majority of charities in Florida operate in a proper and responsible manner when seeking contributions, the Times report revealed a handful of organizations that preyed on vulnerable citizens with deceptive and fraudulent practices; spent as much as 90 cents of every dollar raised to generate more donations; and claimed to raise money for worthy causes but actually funneled most of the funds to charity founders themselves and the for-profit telemarketing companies they hired.

Continue reading

Why Hill Visits Matter: Florida Grantmakers Make Their Voices Heard in DC

It’s easy to be skeptical about Washington these days, what with the apparent rise in partisanship, the seemingly oversized influence of money in politics, and the perception that not much seems to be getting done. So why bother meeting with your congressperson, one may ask, particularly traveling all the way to DC to do it. Is it really worth it? It’s a fair question, and one to which I’d respond with an unequivocal “Yes.”

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of being part of a team of Florida grantmakers who gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with Florida’s congressional delegation, led by Florida Philanthropic Network. We were there to talk about the importance to Florida’s future of ensuring a strong and growing philanthropic sector in our state, and to discuss key legislative and policy issues that can help make that happen. The meetings were part of the annual Foundations on the Hill event put on by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, in partnership with the Council on Foundations and the Alliance for Charitable Reform. Continue reading

Florida Grantmakers Explore New Ways to Engage Communities in Grant Decisions

“Place-based grantmaking” has become a popular term in philanthropic circles over the last several years. As described by the Neighborhood Funders Group, place-based grantmaking illustrates a shift in strategy from a traditional issue- or problem-based philanthropic approach to one focused on improving specific neighborhoods or communities. Instead of a more traditional grantmaking model where funders seek requests for funding proposals from the community related to the funders’ focus areas, place-based grantmaking starts with a focus on a community and then lets the funding priorities surface from the community. Place-based grantmaking strategies have taken many forms and the term itself is used quite liberally to refer to everything from grantmaking based purely on geography to multi-faceted collaborative partnerships among philanthropy, nonprofits and governments aimed at large-scale systems change that leads to healthier communities.

In a recent FPN program, three Florida grantmakers shared different strategies they are using to implement new place-based grantmaking programs in their organizations. Each funder is at a different stage in its program, and they are using different strategies and approaches, but the common thread running through all of their experiences is that they are trying to find new and innovative ways to better engage communities in grantmaking decisions that impact those communities. Continue reading

Improving Florida Children’s Reading Proficiency – And Their Chances for Success in Life

Did you know that one of the best predictors of high school graduation and career success is whether or not a child can read proficiently by the end of third grade? A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, showed that students who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a high school diploma than proficient readers. For those who cannot master even basic reading skills by third grade, the rate is nearly six times greater.

This means that the vast majority of Florida children are at a distinct disadvantage by the time they reach fourth grade. Nearly two-thirds – 65 percent – of Florida students are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade. That figure jumps to 76 percent for students from low-income families, and to 83 percent for African American students. Anyone who cares about the future of our state should be deeply concerned by these numbers. Continue reading

Helping to Guide America’s Largest Philanthropy Network

Last week I was honored and humbled to be elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers in Arlington, Va. The Forum is the largest network serving the philanthropic sector in America. Our network of 34 regional associations of grantmakers, including Florida Philanthropic Network, collectively represent more than 5,000 private and community foundations, corporate givers and other philanthropic organizations (you can read more about the appointment here). Continue reading