Author Archives for Grant Montgomery

Millennials move toward impact investing

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Over the next several decades, as baby boomers in the United States age and transfer their wealth to the next generation, an unprecedented $41 trillion will change hands.

These young inheritors are, for the most part, Millennials — the generation born between 1978 and 2000. As it turns out, this group’s attitudes about social responsibility, private capital, and the intersection between the two do indeed appear to differ from those of their parents, perhaps starkly.

“Think back to the great philanthropists of years past who thought of making money in the first half of their lives and giving it away in the second half,” says Justin Rockefeller, a trustee and member of the investment committee at the $739 million Rockefeller Brothers Fund, great-great grandson of John D. Rockefeller, and, at 33, himself a Millennial. “Today, that view is still pretty pervasive, that there’s capitalism and making money on one side, and philanthropy on the other. I think the younger generation is seeing that as a false dichotomy, or at least something that will increasingly become a false dichotomy.”

Data indicates that he’s right: Millennials are more likely to embrace a philosophy that financial interests and social interests ought to directly overlap, thereby ostensibly benefitting both wallet and world.

In late 2011 Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu commissioned two surveys: Both surveys asked whether business success should be based on more than just profit — 92 percent of Millennials said it should, and 71 percent of current business leaders agreed. When each group was asked to describe the purpose of business, Millennials most often said “innovation” and “societal development,” while business leaders’ top responses were “profit” and “value.”

Over half of Millennials believed that in the future, more than any other sector of society, business would achieve the greatest impact on solving society’s biggest challenges. These are no longer abstract philosophical schisms for the wealth management firms and advisers who are overseeing the massive transfer of assets from one generation to the next — the schisms are practical, and they’re starting to force changes at firms and family offices from the inside out.

Community foundations gaining respect in Russia and Eastern Europe

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Throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Russia (CEE/Russia) and Western Europe, the same two characteristics are often cited when leaders describe what first attracted them to community foundations — the institutions are non-political and they are owned by the communities they serve.

While community foundations are now operating in more than 15 countries in CEE/Russia, they didn’t start developing until the 1990s — first in Slovakia, Poland and elsewhere. Former Soviet states, including Russia, were moved to develop philanthropic organizations that could support the civil society sector after international donors pulled out.

A common characteristic of community foundations in the region is their operational transparency — something unthinkable during communist rule and still viewed with skepticism, says Natalya Kaminarskaya. She is CEO of the Russian Donors Forum, an organization that represents 128 of the nation’s about 300-plus grantmakers of all kinds, including community foundations. “People still have a lack of trust in their neighbors, businesses, government officials and even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia,” Kaminarskaya said. “But things are slowly improving.”

In addition to residents’ opinions of NGOs moving “from negative to neutral,” she says, the Russian government is also changing the way it interacts with indigenous grantmakers. Five years ago the government made it easier for Russian foundations by allowing them to keep money in reserve from year-to-year for permanent endowments without having that money taxed, as had been done previously.Also, a new national law in Russia became effective in 2012 providing individuals with tax incentives for donations made to community foundations and other NGOs. While these same tax incentives are not yet available for businesses and corporations, Kaminarskaya says, she is hopeful that change also will come.

IKEA & UNICEF partner to provide better lives for Indian children

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The partnership between IKEA and UNICEF has worked towards providing a better live for over 74 million children in India.

The partnership was launched with a campaign in the state of Uttar Pradesh to promote children’s welfare, and was expanded to include the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2006, especially targeting the cotton industry to end child labor. In 2008, the partnership expanded to fifteen states with the aim to promote child rights, survival, growth and development. It is estimated that more than 28 million children are engaged in child labor and an estimated 4,700 children under the age of five die every day.

The philanthropic arm of IKEA, the IKEA Foundation, is the largest corporate cash donor to the 65-year-old United Nations humanitarian program, UNICEF. In the past ten years, these are some highlights of the partnership:
• 370,000 children screened for malnourishment, and 56,500 children treated.
• 2.14 million women were taught the benefits of breastfeeding their children.
• 32 million homes now have toilets, and 67 percent of schools have access to toilets, improved drinking water and hand washing facilities.
• Children in 13,120 schools benefit from newly trained teachers and better curriculum.
• 15,000 children in India’s cotton and carpet belts now go to normal schools after being taught basic reading, writing and math skills in bridge schools.
• 600 new Child Protection Committees set up to end child labor practices.
• More than 500,000 leaders, community members and officials trained to protect children

The work of the IKEA Foundation in India is even more remarkable when you consider that they do not yet retail their products in the country, though this might be changing soon.

The real reason the world will remember Bill Gates

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William H. Gates, III, shall ultimately be remembered as the most significant person of his generation. It may not be for the reasons you think.

Bill Gates is eligible for consideration by virtue of founding Microsoft. For fourteen out of the fifteen years from 1995 to 2009 he was the richest person in the world. Such achievements, however, will likely seem small in the scope of history.

Consider the scale of the Gateses’ philanthropy.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through which their philanthropy flows is, according to Wikipedia, the largest “transparently operated private foundation in the world.”  Since inception, the Foundation has made grants of over $26 billion, including $15 billion in global health alone.

The annual giving of just the GlobalHealth program of the Foundation is about $800 million and approaches the scale of the United Nations World Health Organization.

A significant contribution to the Foundation was made by Warren Buffet in 2006, but most of the money in the Foundation has been provided by the Gateses. 

Gates is also famous for asking other billionaires to commit to giving away half their fortunes. Bill and his wife Melinda have committed to giving 95% of their fortune to charity over time; that is an astounding measure of generosity.

 

Do lower taxes for the wealthy result in higher charitable gifts?

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With the U.S. election nearing, some of America’s wealthiest argue that they would give more to charity if they paid lower taxes, as they surely would under proposals put forth by Mitt Romney and in the House-approved budget drafted by his running mate Paul Ryan.

Such an assertion is directly contradicted by scholarly studies. Studies indicate that when taxes go down, people give less generously. Lower taxes mean that what scholars call “the price of giving” goes up; the value of the tax deduction per donated dollar is less.

The notion that the wealthy will pay out in voluntary contributions what they don’t pay in mandatory taxes may seem an attractive proposition to some charities, but it just isn’t so.

While there may be more discretionary money in the pockets of millionaires, it tends to stay there. As a matter of fact, the wealthy give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do moderate- and low-income people.

The social psychologist Paul Piff, who studies the effects of income on personal behavior, told The Chronicle of Philanthropy last month that “the more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become and the less attuned to the needs of other people.” He has shown that wealth can make people “more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people.”

Much of this has been known since 1990 when Terry Odendahl published Charity Begins at Home; wealthy Americans tend to support the nonprofit institutions that they themselves use. That includes elite universities, museums, operas, and performing-arts groups as well as other cultural institutions and some hospitals and medical facilities. Few would consider these institutions to be on the frontline of charities dealing with today’s most pressing problems.

Teachers turn to the Internet to fund classroom projects

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Times are tough and teachers need to be creative sometimes when stocking their classrooms for the year.

Meghan Howell, a second-year first-grade teacher turned to the Internet for help. Though a combination of social media and the website Donorschoose.org, she was able to raise the money she needed in two days. Donors Choose is a charity website where teachers can post their needs as projects in the hopes of finding donors.

DonorsChoose was created in 2000 in New York by social-studies teacher Charles Best. Since its launch, the charity has raised more than $120 million to fund almost 300,000 projects for 6 million students. Anyone can donate to any project on the website, and all donations can be made anonymously.

Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is also referred to as corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for a company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities.

CSR is meant to aid an organization’s mission as well as a guide to what the company stands for and will uphold to its consumers.

Corporate philanthropy is many times mistaken for corporate responsibility. But it is not the same, or to be more accurate, it is just one dimension of CSR, and frankly not the one we should be concentrating on when we talk and debate about the social responsibility of business.

To figure out what CSR means and why it doesn’t equal philanthropy, we can use the classifications Prof. Geoffrey P. Lantos presents in his paper, The Ethicality of Altruistic Corporate Social Responsibility. Lantos offers three different types of CSR:

1. Ethical CSR: Morally mandatory fulfillment of a firm’s economic responsibilities, legal responsibilities, and ethical responsibilities.

2. Altruistic CSR: Fulfillment of an organization’s philanthropic responsibilities, going beyond preventing possible harms (ethical CSR) to helping alleviate public welfare deficiencies, regardless of whether or not this will benefit the business itself.

3. Strategic CSR: Caring corporate community service activities that accomplish strategic business goals.

Devastating effect of higher food prices on developing nations

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As last month’s World Population Day reminded us, we have over 7 billion mouths to feed. And we have to make a place at the table for the 9 million-plus projected by 2050. To do so, we’ll have to ramp up food production by 70 percent, according to United Nations estimates.

In 2011, world food prices went up by some 37 percent during the Russian wheat crisis, driving another 44 million people into poverty, according to the World Bank. This year, the effects of drought may signal more of the same for food prices in coming months.

And climate scientists predict extreme weather events with the potential to disrupt the food supply – including floods and droughts – will be far more common in the coming years.

Changing demographics are also putting new strains on our food supply, as millions of “up and coming” consumers in places like India and China buy more milk and meat to reflect newly middle class tastes, as chronicled in the Journal of Nutrition. In just this decade, there will be a 30 percent increase in global demand for milk, Tetra Pak’s own dairy index forecasts.

Furthermore, food crops and farmland are increasingly being diverted into biofuel production around the globe, making commodity crops scarcer and more expensive.

Price spikes hurt people in developing nations more, simply because they spend a much higher fraction of their incomes on food.  Whereas U.S. households spend about 6 percent of their total expenditures on food, this compares with 35 percent in India and 45 percent in Kenya. As a result, a major uptick in food prices in developing parts of the world is beyond devastating — it’s destabilizing.

A holistic approach in grantmaking

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Community foundations in South Africa often use a holistic approach in their grantmaking, addressing multiple, inter-connected issues simultaneously, such as education, employment and health care.

Community foundation leaders in South Africa intentionally focus on creating positive local change from the bottom up, initiated by citizens, instead of the top down, initiated by elected officials, say those in the field.

“If we believe in the community foundation movement, and I do, we need to get down to the ground level and talk with the people living there and hear how they are affected by our community’s problems,” said Beulah Fredericks, executive director of the Community Development Foundation Western Cape based in Cape Town, South Africa. “We need to hear their voices and what their aspirations are. We should be asking: ‘What do you want to change? Where do you want your life to go?'”

Elsewhere in Africa, community foundations that are in varying stages of development are being created in response to local needs. These newer foundations are able to bring a holistic approach to their grantmaking, which means addressing multiple, inter-connected issues simultaneously, such as education, employment and health care.

“Before, people in a community would be told: ‘We’ve got money for water; where do you want your pump?'” one participant says. “Instead of assuming they all need pumps, community foundations are instead asking: ‘What do you see as your most urgent need? What assets do you have? How can we help you meet this need?'”

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Donor-advised funds give you bang for your buck

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A popular route through which to make a significant social impact without the high costs or administrative hassle is through a donor-advised fund.

A donor-advised fund offers an individual the opportunity to create an easy-to-establish, low cost, flexible vehicle for charitable giving as an alternative to creating a private foundation or direct giving.

Donor-advised fund are managed by charitable organizations and are easy to set up, often with as little as $5,000. The tax benefits also make these funds popular. Individuals are allowed a federal deduction of up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income for cash donations and 30 percent for appreciated securities.

Aside from the tax savings and ease of establishing a fund, your buck has more bang. You’re pooling money with like-minded individuals, sharing the overhead expenses with all the other donors who support the charity.

There’s no magic grid for how to choose a fund, but with a little research, you can find one that matches your mission.