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.

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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

New Partnership Will Strengthen Support for Grants Managers in Florida

Florida Philanthropic Network is pleased to announce that FPN and the Grants Managers Network (GMN) have established a new relationship that will support our respective missions and maximize the value of membership in both organizations. Building on our shared values of collaboration and leadership, we have forged a mutually beneficial partnership that will help us achieve our independent and combined goals. Continue reading

Ending the Overhead Myth

In late January Dan Pallotta was the closing keynote speaker for Florida Philanthropic Network’s 2013 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy, and people in Florida philanthropy who heard him are still talking about his remarks to this day.

One of Pallotta’s key points Pallotta had to do with our country’s historic focus on a nonprofit’s “overhead” when making funding decisions. The word “overhead” has come to mean something bad or wrong, he pointed out, and “good” nonprofits are the ones who keep their overhead as low as possible. This way of thinking does not recognize that those overhead expenses also help to support a charity’s cause, Pallotta continued. It’s hard for a nonprofit to operate effective programs to fight hunger or homelessness, for example, if it can’t keep the lights on in its office or give its employees decent computers. Continue reading