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Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon

DID YOU KNOW? Jeff Bezos is dipping his toes in the philanthropic world. In an announcement made just this week, Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, made his largest monetary commitment to nonprofits to date. In his statement, Bezos pledged $2 billion to the creation of new nonprofit preschools that will serve low-income communities and to funding for existing nonprofits that fight homelessness. The new project, entitled Bezos Day One Families Fund, will set up “a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities.” The commitment, while praised by many, has received criticism for its size, ambiguity, and timing, among other things. According to Bloomberg, Bezos, with an estimated net worth of $164 billion, recently became the wealthiest man in the world. Some are hesitant to commend a donation that represents such a small fraction of Bezos’s wealth, claiming that he could do more. Others are asking questions to clarify the exact classification of the new organization. In his announcement, Bezos did not specify whether the Day One Fund would operate as a foundation, donor-advised fund, nonprofit, or a limited liability corporation (LLC). Still, aside from such criticism, some have applauded Bezos’s pledge and believe it to be just the beginning of a long commitment to nonprofits and social responsibility. Leslie Lenkowsky, Senior Counselor to the Dean of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, counters critics who claim that the size of Bezos’s commitment is insufficient, citing that it might be more successful to start with a pledge that is smaller in quantity but more manageable. To find out more about the CEO’s foray into the nonprofit world, why many are already critical and confused, and what Bezos is doing differently from his billionaire counterparts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, check out this article in the Nonprofit Times. But first, check out these five nonprofit headlines of the week.

1. Picture This: Using Photography to Connect With Your Entire Audience

A picture is worth a thousand words. For your nonprofit, it might also be worth a few more volunteers. In a recent effort to attract a more diverse volunteer and donor base, the Sierra Club organized a series of photo shoots featuring Latinos taking part in the organization’s activities. The first of such photo shoots, held in Puerto Rico this past summer, showed Latinos of all ages participating in nature cleanups, protests, and other outdoor activities. A major focus of the shoot was maintaining authenticity – to produce pictures of real people doing real things because they really care, rather than simply hiring a more diverse group of models to stand in the outdoors. In the shoot, posing was limited and the photographer focused on facial expressions and individual interactions within the shots rather than on the landscape itself. According to Elena Reglero, the Sierra Club’s Director of Membership Development, for-profit marketing teams in the corporate world launched similar campaigns in the 1980s to include more Latinos in advertisements in attempts to attract a more diverse audience of consumers. The nonprofit world, however, hasn’t quite caught up. Diversifying the subjects of your nonprofit’s public images – whether they be on your website, social media, or in brochures – may help the diverse community in which you work identify more strongly with your cause. What’s worse, outdated photos that do not accurately represent your volunteer base might end up pushing potential supporters away. To learn more about the Sierra Club’s efforts and how you can use photographs to communicate with your supporters, visit the link above.

2. Accessing Affordable Childcare in a Wage-Depressed World

An article in Nonprofit Quarterly takes a deeper look into the concerning irony of childcare workers who are unable to afford basic early-stage childcare for their own children. Unlike lawyers and doctors, who typically have little trouble paying for their own legal or medical needs, childcare providers work in a field that generally provides fewer benefits, hours, and lower wages, making it much harder for them to afford childcare. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, high quality early childcare and education provide several “long-term cost savings for society as a whole, including a lower prison population.” By estimating the long-term savings, Heckman argues it would be a good investment to significantly increase public funding for these sectors in order to pay childcare providers a living wage. He claims only then will we begin to provide affordable, quality childcare. It is unfair and unwise to ask nonprofits to fill the gap; like childcare workers themselves, the nonprofit world cannot afford this burden. In an article published in 2016, Nonprofit Quarterly tells its readers that the nonprofit world has long operated within similar “wage-ghettos,” unable to both pay workers a living wage and carry out essential services. To find out more about other wage-depressed fields and what economists are saying nonprofits should and should not be doing to find solutions, click the link above.

3. Text Messaging as the Latest (and Easiest) Fundraising Tool for Your Nonprofit

Texting is no longer just used for the occasional “Hey” or “Happy Birthday!” According to an article in the Nonprofit Times, in recent years, text messaging has been used by more and more nonprofits as a popular tool for fundraising. During the Nonprofit Technology Network’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, held this year in New Orleans, a session titled “Can You Really Raise Money Through Text Messages?” gave panelists from nonprofits who had been using this tool the opportunity to share their recommendations. One of the panelists was Luz Hernandez, the online campaign manager for Food & Water Watch. Among other helpful hints, Hernandez stressed the importance of humanizing the messages so they do not sound automated, and responding to text messages within a 24-hour period. Other important panelist tips listed in the article include sending a link to a donation page in the initial text, using source codes, limiting messages to one text, introducing your nonprofit, and removing recipients who cannot accept MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) when sending pictures, videos, or GIFs. If your nonprofit hopes to utilize texting as a fundraising tool, start by ensuring that all websites and web forms are accessible and easy to use via mobile phone. Then construct a brief but powerful message and get to texting! To learn more about the Nonprofit Technology Conference and get more tips for raising money via text messaging, click the link to the article above.

4. California Assembly Bill 2252

Last week, thanks to the continued advocacy of many California nonprofits, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2252, which will create an online portal to help nonprofits learn about their eligibility for certain state funding opportunities. This portal will not only enable nonprofits to locate major potential grants from a searchable database, but will also allow them to apply for grant funding directly. This will help streamline the complicated process of applying for grants. Securing funding from the State of California can often be especially difficult, as each government department and agency posts grant opportunities in different formats and in different places on their websites. Assemblymember Monique Limón, author of the bill and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector, cites the importance of this bill in making access to funding opportunities public knowledge. Before AB 2252 was signed, no such statewide public database for grants available to nonprofits existed. CalNonprofits, a sponsor of the bill, is hopeful that, among other things, the bill will address the growing funding disparities seen in nonprofit communities throughout the state. To learn more about AB 2252 and the funding opportunities that could become available to your nonprofit as a result of its passing, visit the link to the CalNonprofits website above.

5. Supreme Court to Require 501(c)(4)s to Disclose Identities of Certain Political Donors

This week, the Nonprofit Times reported that after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay on an appellate court decision on Tuesday, nonprofits that make partisan political ads will have to disclose the identities of certain donors. Specifically, this new ruling will demand disclosures from nonprofits of all their contributors who gave over $200 in one year if their ads explicitly tell viewers who they should vote for in a political election. Those in the nonprofit world were quick to comment on this pivotal decision. Tim Delaney, CEO of the National Council on Nonprofits, told the magazine that the impact of this decision would be far-reaching. He did specify, however, that the new ruling will only apply Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules to 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, not to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, which are subject to strict limitations on partisan political activity. Many, including Allison Grayson, Director of Policy Development and Analysis at Independent Sector, are asking that the FEC immediately clarify certain provisions of the decision to minimize confusion and non-compliance. Limits on political activity of nonprofits, such as those spelled out in the Johnson Amendment, have long been debated. Grayson claims that this new decision is only a symptom of a much broader problem stemming from the conflicting rules governing a nonprofit’s political activity, and organizations will likely need help navigating this new territory. Check out the link above to find out how your nonprofit might be affected by these new rules and learn more about the original case – between parties Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) and Crossroads GPS – that sparked these changes.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To find out what nonprofits and others are saying about Jeff Bezos’s new Day One Fund, click here!

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