DID YOU KNOW? Last Thursday, on November 23rd, millions of Americans sat down to beautifully prepared Thanksgiving feasts, commemorating the colonial Pilgrims' harvest meal in 1621. Yet, much controversy has surrounded the classic account of the encounters between the Pilgrims and Native Americans upon which this holiday is based, with many historians citing that this meeting was much more violent than described and activists arguing that modern narratives present Native Americans as separate from the U.S. population. This Thanksgiving season, one organization has sought to build counternarratives to the classic Thanksgiving tale that more accurately and respectfully describe the lives of the Wampanoag. According to an article in Nonprofit Quarterly, the Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. has launched a week-long training program for 50 social studies teachers across the country, attempting to guide them in “how to teach the first Thanksgiving in a way that is true to actual events and respectful of Native cultures.” Participants of the training were able to hear first-hand accounts of Native Americans’ experience in the U.S. and analyze historical photos of their ancestors. They were also educated on a wider variety of U.S. political history as it related to Native Americans, with topics including the Dawes Act and the American Indian removal policies of Jackson in the 1830s. Many teachers who participated said the training allowed them to come up with creative ways to counter antiquated history textbooks that dismiss Native American struggles and simplify the complex history of the holiday. For more information on the Museum of the American Indian and how you too can challenge the classic Thanksgiving narrative, click here.

1. As Value of Volunteer Hours Rise, Percent of Those Volunteering Reaches an All-Time Low

The Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland recently released a report, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from all fifty states, that indicated a worrisome trend in the share of Americans volunteering. According to the report, in the last fifteen years, the United States has experienced a significant decrease in the percentage of those who volunteer their time to nonprofits, reaching an all-time low of 24.9 percent in 2015 (the most recent year studied). The study predicts that “if the volunteer rate had not declined at all between 2004 and 2015, over 9.8 million more Americans would have volunteered in 2015. Interestingly, however, as the percent of those who volunteer may be declining, the number of total volunteer hours has actually increased during the same period, possibly masking the negative impacts of fewer workers. A separate study by the Independent Sector reported that the value of a volunteer’s time has grown at a steady pace since 2002, reaching $24.69/hour in 2017. Given such trends, as well as the greater value lost by declining volunteers, your organization may need to invest in creative solutions in order to attract new volunteers this year. While seeking funding often takes precedence over appealing to volunteers, not forgetting about the latter will help your organization preserve the invaluable social capital that volunteers create by spreading your mission and furthering your operational goals. To read more notable findings in the study from the University of Maryland, visit the article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy linked above, or click here to view the official report.

2. Making Financial Resilience a Reality in Your Organization

Though every nonprofit strives for “financial resilience,” implementing practices to achieve such security can prove more challenging than expected. An article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review reports that “despite growing awareness in the sector, some organizations continue to have a reactive and stressful relationship with their financial health and performance.” The David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Local Grantmaking Program, noticing this trend of financial instability among its grantees, partnered with the Fiscal Management Associates, LLC (FMA) to provide hands-on financial support and training for ten of its partnering organizations. The project sought to find areas in which community organizations needed the most support and, thus, exactly what building “financial resilience” would mean for nonprofits. The foundation identified three practices as especially important to maintaining long-term financial security. The first of these is projecting your organization’s budget over several years to account for decisions – such as hiring decisions and multiyear grants – that will affect long-term finances. Another suggested tool that has become increasingly popular in the sector is the use of visual dashboards to give your organization a “shared language” and “tangible tools” to improve its operational health. The last consistent marker of financial resilience identified from the project is an operating reserves policy, designed to dictate when an organization will build, maintain, and spend its reserves. While having consecutive years of surplus funds is not exactly a reality for many nonprofits, having a plan for if/when these surpluses do occur will put you one step closer to financial stability. Though often thrown around casually and used in the abstract, “financial resilience” can become a reality for your organization by taking a few of these concrete steps today. To find out more about the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s deep dive into financial resilience and what their grantees reported back, check out the article above.

3. Airbnb to Join Fight Against Homelessness in San Francisco

Airbnb, the hospitality service headquartered in San Francisco, has recently promised to donate $5 million over the next three years to help mitigate the homelessness crisis in SF. The company will reportedly be working with community organizations and local government agencies to direct the funds to programs addressing the most urgent and immediate housing needs. Among such programs expected to benefit from the donation is the new Rising Up initiative that will provide housing and employment opportunities to 500 people between the ages of 18 and 25. Local agency officials seem enthusiastic about partnering with Airbnb to support such programs. Jeff Kositsky, Director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, expressed gratitude that the company was looking to collaborate with the city before directing the funds, and Mayor London Breed claimed that donations like this one “will help [the city] get to a better place.” Yet the decision has not come without public skepticism. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on the company pledge, “some activists and lawmakers accuse Airbnb of contributing to San Francisco’s housing crisis by luring landlords to turn units into lucrative vacation rentals.” These accusations have made for a tense relationship between Airbnb and the city of San Francisco in recent years. Thus, many are critical of the donation, claiming it was done to help alleviate an issue that the company itself helped perpetuate in the first place. Others are more supportive of the pledge, citing that Airbnb has taken significant steps in the last few years to ensure that all its rentals are registered with the city, allowing the city to investigate illegal rentals by non-permanent residents. So, when looking for donors to support your organization’s programs, consider corporations based locally that are intimately connected to your cause, in whatever capacity that might be. In this new age of “social responsibility,” many corporations whose practices have produced unintended, negative social externalities might very well be eager to help. To read more about Airbnb’s decision to enter the fight against homelessness, and how they are mending their relationship with local agencies, check out the link above.

4. Nonprofits as Models for Socially-Minded Businesses

While in the past many start-up nonprofits have look to established businesses as models for things like investment strategies or board composition, in recent years, these roles have begun to reverse. In the era of “social-responsibility,” more and more corporations are shifting to more sustainable and socially-minded business models, and thus, are looking to nonprofits, inherently purpose driven organizations, to serve as models for this transition. In the shift to become more purpose-driven, corporations’ marketing teams are looking to nonprofits for inspiration on how to  engage their customers and shareholders in new and creative ways. In an article in AdWeek, Betsy Henning, CEO and Founder of AHA, offers corporations a few suggestions to model their new socially-minded practices off nonprofits, including doing more with less and committing one’s organization’s mission to memory – things that come instinctively to most in the nonprofit world. In the next few decades, it is predicted that a rise in nonprofit-corporate sponsorships, along with an increasing number of corporations becoming more mission-driven, will blur the lines between the nonprofit and for-profit sector, giving each a far greater pool of resources from which to draw. According to Henning, “it’s likely that the two distinct entities—one commercial and the other nonprofit—will continue to discover areas of overlap where they are mirroring the other to both do well and do good.” Serving as this model for businesses gives nonprofits like yours the chance not only to inspire positive social change in the for-profit world, but also to undergo a meaningful reflection on your own operating standards to ensure they are effective, up-to-date, and “worthy” to serve as a guide to others. This shift might also push corporate leaders to get involved in your organization in hopes of gaining insight into your operational model and learn from your successes. So, when recruiting new board members and corporate partners, be sure to frame the opportunity as mutually-beneficial, as the nonprofit world has a lot to offer to a for-profit world looking for a mission. To learn more about brands that have become more purpose-driven and how your organization can serve as a model for success, click the link above.

5. Local Donors to Need Extra Push in Light of New Tax Law  

During this Thanksgiving season, nonprofits should be feeling especially grateful for their donors who give locally. An article from the National Council of Nonprofits reports that in light of the new federal tax law that increased deductions on charitable giving, local contributions will have important impacts this year. According to many experts, “as a result of the new federal tax law, about 21 million fewer taxpayers will claim charitable and other deductions.” Organizations that rely on local donations, typically small and mid-sized community-based nonprofits, are most likely to be hurt by heightened thresholds for tax deductions. Thus, unless donors shift their behavior to focus on their local nonprofits who might not survive the predicted declining giving rates, an increasing number of nonprofits will face tighter budgets and limited potential for growth in the coming year. So, while stewarding all your donors will be important, especially with Giving Tuesday quickly approaching, local donors will often be those with the fewest personal incentives to give, and, therefore, require and deserve a bit more of your attention this giving season. Relying on the contributions of consistent donors without doing such outreach might not yield the same results this year. This is the time to be both proactive and thankful when it comes to your local donations. Your outreach to engage and express gratitude toward these supporters will be crucial in preventing a drop-off in local giving. For more information on what role local donations will play in this year’s giving season, how they help boost local economies, and more, visit the link above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To read about one nonprofit’s inspiring efforts to make Thanksgiving dinners for the victims of the devastating Camp Fire in Northern California that has burned more than 153,000 acres and left tragedy in its wake, check out this article.

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