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JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION

DID YOU KNOW? The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently released the twenty-five winners of its coveted MacArthur Fellows Program, commonly referred to as the MacArthur “Genius Grant.” Every year, the Foundation, whose mission is to “support creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world,” names a list of innovators from all walks of life that have shown exceptional creativity and dedication in their field. A good portion of this year’s winners have significant ties to the nonprofit world. Becca Heller, co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project and practicing human rights lawyer, is just one such winner. Heller’s work in immigration was nationally recognized when she helped organize a “pro-bono brigade” of lawyers travelling to airports to help defend immigrants and fight back against the Trump Administration’s travel ban. Another winner of the grant, Vijay Gupta of Los Angeles, is both a violinist and social justice advocate who plays music to build connections with people who are incarcerated or homeless. Other winners of this prestigious award include an epidemiologist turned HIV/AIDS activist and a pastor from North Carolina who hosts weekly civil disobedience rallies. This year’s winners also include a composer, an analytical chemist, a playwright, a filmmaker, and an investigative journalist. Each MacArthur Fellow will receive a $625,000 stipend paid out over five years that can be used for any purpose. But before calculating just how much change you could create with that stipend and taking a deeper look at the inspiring lives of the remaining fellows, check out these nonprofit headlines of the week!

1. Using Technology to Make This Year’s Giving Tuesday Count

Is your organization ready for Giving Tuesday? “Giving Tuesday,” founded by by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation in 2012, is November 27th this year and is a day that promotes charitable giving through social media campaigns and other nonprofit outreach efforts. Last year alone, the Giving Tuesday campaign helped raise over $300 million for organizations of all shapes and sizes. So, as the most popular philanthropic day of the year quickly approaches, it might be time for your organization to make a concrete plan to maximize fundraising. An article in BizTech Magazine outlines a few tips for using technology to make the most of your Giving Tuesday. It advises organizations to begin by ensuring their websites are donor friendly, easy to locate, and customized with specific information about their causes and impact stories. Nonprofits should also ensure their servers are equipped to handle greater than normal traffic on that day due to the high volume of donors that may be browsing your site. If you think your site is at risk of being overloaded, it might be wise to look into load-balancing software tools that can re-route traffic to available servers in order to ensure a responsive website on that day. Another tip encourages nonprofits to use several methods of donor outreach (i.e. social media, blogs, email, PR campaign, etc.) leading up to Giving Tuesday, and to start such outreach at least a week prior. Nonprofits should also keep in mind that the best strategies do not end on Giving Tuesday; following up with and thanking supporters who donate on Giving Tuesday is essential when looking to build longer-term donor relationships for successful Giving Tuesdays in coming years. To read more tips on how to effectively use technology during what could be your organization’s most important day of the year, check out the article linked above.

2. Considering Impact in Risk Management Strategies

An article in the Nonprofit Times warns nonprofits that while there is no single, correct way to create an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) program, its effective implementation will help your organization proactively address risks so as to be prepared when crises occur. The success of your ERM program will not only mean “utilizing a comprehensive, structured methodology, informed by the experience of others, to identify, evaluate, report and mitigate key risks to your organization,” but also outlining the impact of each potential risk. Yet when it comes to actually forming your ERM program, not everyone might be on the same page. While your organization’s management might be able to easily identify the greatest risks you might face, not every department will necessarily weigh the impact of each risk the same. Those working in finance might not deem the impact of negative press coverage nearly as significant as those on your communications team, while those working in marketing might not even see the impacts of inaccurate financial data. The key, according to the article, is acknowledging the multi-faceted nature of these impacts and dividing them into categories in order to best understand their significance. Such categories include: strategic, financial, operational, reputational, environmental, technology, and legal. One risk might have impacts in all of these categories, while others could apply to hardly any. To find out more about ERM programs and why an analysis of impact is so crucial, click the link above.

3. New Donor Trends Renew Cry for Universal Charitable Deduction

An article in Nonprofit Quarterly identifies an alarming trend in charitable giving. It reports that while charitable giving is at an all-time high, fewer people are donating. Thus, higher-level donors are writing even bigger checks and making up an even more significant portion of overall giving. This trend could be due in large part to the new tax regulation, which raised the standard deduction for individuals to $12,000 and therefore gives only wealthier donors the ability to itemize. The article claims that now more than ever, we are in need of a “decisive, equity-based tax agenda to reverse this antidemocratic tax measure” and to re-diversify donations. Many are concerned that if we do not re-diversify, the current trend will hurt small, local organizations who previously relied on smaller donations from many contributors, most of whom can no longer itemize their deductions. Others claim that wealthier donors tend to support large-scale organizations that do not necessarily serve local needs, which, if this trend in giving is accurate, will lead to an even greater deficiency in resources for local communities. Many nonprofits have begun advocating for the universal charitable deduction – also known as a “non-itemizer” or “above-the-line” deduction. Currently, only two states, Colorado and Minnesota, have any kind of incentive for taxpayers that cannot itemize their deductions; however, bills proposed this year to expand these incentives by removing giving thresholds failed in both states. To see what your nonprofit can do to support policy-makers and the one hundred plus organizations that make up the Charitable Giving Coalition in lobbying for a universal charitable deduction, visit the link above.

4. Chapter Success = Organizational Success

National nonprofits that have several local chapters face a complex set of obstacles when it comes to furthering organization success. Colleen Ennis and Robert King Novara, Account Managers for the online-fundraising platform Classy, lay out several steps you can take to ensure you are maintaining a healthy and productive relationship with your organization’s chapters. The first, according to Ennis, is to recognize and appreciate the diversity and subjectivity of each of your chapters. Do not flood your chapters with resources and toolkits that do not pertain to their individual communities, as this might serve to confuse chapters succeeding in areas where extra resources are still being provided from nationals. Since this is surely no easy task for someone already attempting to run a national branch, you might consider assigning a separate team to analyze your chapters and allocate resources accordingly. Other suggestions for how to empower your chapters to succeed include promoting idea sharing among chapters and opening up a transparent line of communication through which someone at nationals can somehow always be reached by your chapters. Finally, they suggest that while you encourage subjectivity among chapters, your organization is still careful to present a single brand to the public so as not to create confusion or appear disorganized or decentralized. You can do this by creating an updated and easily-accessible logo of your organization as well as creating uniform copies of handbooks, toolkits, etc. to post on your shared online resources. While all these tactics, and many more, are important in maintaining the support and success of your chapters, according to Ennis and Novara, it all essentially comes down to trust. Even if you follow all of the above steps, if you do not have people at your local chapters whom you trust to follow the mission of your organization and who trust you to provide them with adequate resources to do so, tense relations might ensue. To read more tips on how to build trustworthy and mutually beneficial relationships with organizational chapters, visit the link above.

5. Using Friendly Competition and Volunteer Recognition to Build Community

To most, “knighting” one’s volunteers might seem quite out of the ordinary, but one organization has used this spirited way of recognition to help foster meaningful connections with its supporters. Being honored at a knighting ceremony as “Knights of the Bald Table” is just one of the many ways St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research, uses recognition and friendly competition to more deeply engage its community. Those running the foundation’s peer-to-peer fundraising efforts promote such competition when organizing events in which participants receive donations in return for shaving their heads – a showing of solidarity with children undergoing chemotherapy treatment. On the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s website, a "Top of the Charts" page lists the top raising events, teams, and individuals, and includes links to individual fundraising pages where browsers can read more about why or for whom each person is competing. According to Kathleen Ruddy, the Foundation’s Executive Director, competitors vie for a top spot on this list every year, and those who do not make it are still able to set up their own one-on-one challenges and display the winners online. St. Baldrick’s acknowledges volunteers of three or more years by inducting them into the “League of Legendary Heroes.” Longtime volunteers of seven-plus years are recognized at a “knighting ceremony,” mentioned above, during one of the Foundation’s head-shaving events. Finding unique ways to show appreciation for your volunteers and evoke their competitive side might help your organization build lasting connections with your volunteers and keep them coming back for another year. To read more about St. Baldrick’s Foundation and how you can use similar, lively strategies to engage your volunteers, visit the link above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To find out more about the winners of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship, check out this article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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