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On February 11th, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after twenty-seven years. In June 1964, after already serving shorter prison terms for incitement and leaving the country illegally, Mandela and other African National Congress (ANC) leaders were convicted on charges of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela spent the first eighteen years of his sentence at the infamous Robben Island Prison where he led a civil disobedience movement that resulted in drastic improvements to the harsh prison conditions. The anti-apartheid leader was moved out of Robben Island Prison in 1982 and continued his sentence in various hospitals, prisons, and under house arrest. In February 1990, Mandela met President FW de Klerk, who made a claim for Mandela’s release after lifting the ban on all political organizations including the ANC. Mandela initially rejected De Klerk’s offer for his release and asked for a two-week extension for the ANC to prepare for his release. De Klerk refused Mandela’s request and Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on February 11th, 1990.
The ever-widening wealth gap was evident as the country watched working class families suffer from the longest government shutdown in United States history. The shutdown revealed how financially precarious working-class families are as they find themselves unable to buy groceries and pay bills. Wes Moore, CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York City nonprofit committed to fighting poverty, asserts that charities that supported workers during the government shutdown must be active players in fighting the inequality seen in today’s society. Alternately, Ruth McCambridge questions whether the philanthropic community can effectively develop tools to restructure today’s societal inequalities in America. Ms. McCambridge raises the question of the role of class in the nonprofit sector, since almost all organizations look to corporations and foundations for funding. For example, Ken Griffin, a major donor to the Robin Hood Foundation, recently purchased the most expensive home ever to be sold in New York for $238 million. His new home is just around the corner from a new homeless shelter site. In this juxtaposition of class and power, Ms. McCambridge questions the usual narratives of philanthropy, and whether philanthropists and foundations are equipped to reverse the socioeconomic patterns that support and reproduce inequality. As she critiques the role of philanthropists and large foundations that have the power to direct social reform, she raises the question: Is it possible to ever resolve the cognitive dissonance between the super wealthy, such as Ken Griffin, and those in need? With the possibility for large foundations and philanthropists to use their financial means to provide and promote ideas for political change, Ms. McCambridge cites Joan Roelof: “the nonprofit world is also a system of power that is exercised in the interest of the corporate world” (see “The Third Sector as a Protective Layer for Capitalism” (2006)). Roelof questions whether the potential for radical alternatives to the current system has been opposed by the ‘third sector’, that is, the philanthropists and large foundations that fund a major portion of the nonprofit sector.
On February 5, 2019, a new organization, “Candid,” was formed by the merger of two important corporations in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, The Foundation Center and GuideStar. These two nonprofits combined forces after seven years of discussions and preparations. The Foundation Center, founded in 1956 as a public information service on philanthropy, maintains the world’s largest database of global grantmaking. Its new partner Guidestar, released and expanded the first searchable electronic database of all tax-exempt organizations registered with the IRS. Together, they formed “Candid”, and both boards agreed to build on their organizations’ complementary capacities to “keep users front and center” as they collaborate to combine thirty different business systems, retaining all technology, data, and organizational processes and cultures involved in these systems. The recently announced merger is still underway as CEOs of both organizations work together to establish a new structure for Candid by engaging both boards and organizational structures. It will be key for Candid to work on its ability to function as a platform and place of collaboration, in addition to keeping prices accessible to its users. Overall, the seven year long merging process has gone well because of the project’s long-term support from major philanthropic institutions such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Fidelity Charitable Trustees Initiative. However, some critics of the merger have already expressed concern about the possibility of a de facto monopoly. Time will tell how this new entity will impact and potentially alter the nonprofit sector.
As social media continues to grow and unveil new features, Facebook and Instagram look to support nonprofit organizations by adding user friendly fundraising tools for both individuals and charities to utilize in their social media profiles. Facebook is in the process of developing details surrounding the new donation button, which will be embedded in Instagram stories—posts that expire twenty-four hours after they are uploaded. Once clicked, the donation button will link a user directly to a charity’s donation page, thus allowing users to navigate easily through an organization’s social media profile directly to the donation page. According to Facebook, users will be able to select an organization from a list of charities that Facebook has preapproved. This is not the first time Facebook has supported charitable giving; this latest development of the Instagram donation button is likely a result of the success Facebook has had since 2015 when the company first launched a donation button that made it easy for people to collect donations on their birthdays for causes they deeply care about. Facebook says the company will cover all operation and credit-card processing fees to ensure that 100% of donations go directly to the organizations. As social media platforms expand their reach to support and promote certain causes, nonprofit organizations may see an influx of donations through social media sites, as seen on Giving Tuesday in November 2018, when nonprofits raised $125 million solely through donations made on Facebook.
Cloud technology has become routine storage space for data for many nonprofit organizations, including some who may not even realize they are using the cloud. For example, accepting online donations can mean that an organization is using cloud technology. Whether they know it or not, most nonprofit organizations are already using the cloud, so nonprofits will need to focus on what exactly is happening to their data stored in the cloud. Related to the cloud is artificial intelligence technology (AI) that finds insights in cloud-stored data to further benefit organizations using the cloud. The cloud makes all innovations in AI, machine learning, and performance management possible at an accessible scale and affordability, according to the Vice President of Blackbaud, a South Carolina fundraising technology firm. Essentially, cloud computing is the ability to rent capabilities rather than spend heavily on capital, people, and security, therefore leveling the playing field for small organizations. By offering these advanced capabilities that were typically only available to large organizations and companies, small organizations may also reap the benefits of this technology. Although the cloud and AI technology have become widely used technology systems, now passing their initial stages of development into a more innovative and expansive phase, nonprofits must stay vigilant about protecting their data and systems.
The term food desert was coined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to indicate low-income communities where there is no grocery store within a mile radius in urban areas, or within a ten-mile radius in rural areas. Nonprofit grocery stores are slowly beginning to develop to serve both urban and rural low-income communities located in food deserts. It is difficult, however, for a nonprofit grocery store to succeed since the grocery business is low margin, competitive, cash and debt intensive, and fluid with openings, closings, and mergers of stores constantly happening. For example, City Square, a Christian community development organization, together with Oak Cliff, a small advocacy group, are committed to serve south Dallas communities by opening a nonprofit grocery store in 2020. These Dallas organizations look to another Texas nonprofit, Mission Waco, for guidance as they prepare for the store opening. In order to start Jubilee Food Market, Mission Waco offered Opportunity Advancing Social Innovation Stock (OASIS) shares at twenty-five dollars each. These shares were quickly bought up by eager donors and community members, allowing Mission Waco to easily raise the funds needed for the initial costs of start-up and operations for the first year of Jubilee Food Market. After two years of operations, Jubilee Food Market plans to rely heavily on donations and grants. Another nonprofit grocery store, Good Foods Market in Washington DC, highlights the importance of community surveys and residents’ purchase decisions in the creation and sustainability of the grocery store. There are many challenges facing the viability of nonprofit grocery stores in food deserts, but with community support and creative business plans these unconventional grocery store models have the potential to change the lives of many low-income families lacking access to fresh and healthy food options.