The IShack betters conditions in slum settlements

Posted on by

As you approach the simple dwelling, a rooftop solar panel, an outdoor security light and a roof overhang make Nosango Plaatjie’s shack stand out amid the sprawling cluster of makeshift wooden structures and rusty corrugated iron dwellings where her neighbors live.

Welcome to the iShack, or improved shack, an innovative approach to housing that’s being tested in the windswept slum of Enkanini, just outside Stellenbosch, South Africa. The dwelling, developed by researchers at the University of Stellenbosch, is intended to raise the living standards of slum residents while improving their access to electricity and protecting them from extreme temperatures in an environmentally friendly way.

The iShack prototype is occupied by Plaatje and her three young children. It is fully equipped with a photovoltaic panel capable of producing enough electricity to power three lights, a mobile phone charger and an outdoor motion detector spotlight. Its windows are strategically placed to achieve better air circulation and sunlight heating, while the roof is sloped so that rainwater can be harvested during the winter months.

Plaatjie, a domestic worker employed once a week, says her family’s life has improved a great deal after relocating to the ecologically designed iShack. Their previous home was a cold, damp shack hastily put together from disused pallets and corroded zinc sheets.

62% of the urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa lives in slums, typically characterized by deplorable living conditions, a feeling of insecurity and inadequate infrastructure for basic energy, sanitation and water services.

Excluding the solar power system, the iShack costs about 5,600 rand ($660). And thanks to a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the iShack project will be trialled over the next year.

 

Wooing Millennials

Posted on by

Donate.ly, a new, open-source funding platform for nonprofits, wants to make it easy for any charity to show donors where their money is being used and let people create personalized fundraisers. Calling the platform a Kickstarter for charities, Donate.ly founder Javan Van Gronigen believes such detail and customization is key to appealing to young people brought up in the information age.

“Before our generation, you saw my parents would be like, ‘Oh, we want to give to the Red Cross,’” he says. “My generation would say we want to give to education or to fighting child slavery. Now it’s going even deeper and the next generation is saying, ‘I want to save that person right there.’”

Compelling narrative also plays a key role in wooing many donors, particularly young people. A survey of more than 6,000 people between 20 and 35 for the Millennial Impact Report found that 42% chose to donate to “whatever inspired them at the moment.”

Invisible Children, a nonprofit focused on stopping the abduction and use of child soldiers in central Africa, struck viral gold with young people last March when it released Kony 2012, a dramatic 30-minute short film about Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. The video racked up 100 million views in less than a week and helped the organization double its revenue year over year. Van Gronigen’s nonprofit-focused creative studio, Fifty and Fifty, devised the marketing scheme for Kony 2012.

The economic impact of American grantmaking

Posted on by

It’s hard to imagine life without the fruits of charitable giving in America, including hospice care, insulin, vaccines, civil rights, Sesame Street, the 911 system, and even white lines on roadways. These and other advances are among the products of philanthropy that support thousands of organizations serving millions of people every day.

Unfortunately, the broad importance of the sector and the size of its impact are not well known, including among public and elected officials … a particular concern as Congress and the White House debate the role of the sector.

Using established economic models, a new study from The Philanthropic Collaborative (TPC) examines how domestic foundation grants in 2010 ($37.85 billion) are contributing to job creation, wages, GDP, and tax revenues. According to the study, foundation grantmaking in 2010 helped create about 500,000 direct jobs for those hired to implement the grant. Within one year, the number expands to nearly 1 million jobs when the “ripple effects” are included.

The study also presents longer-term projections of economic benefits such as better health care, educational opportunities, and quality of life. In addition, the study connects foundation grantmaking to nearly 4.5 million new jobs through long-term benefits or 8.8 million jobs when including ripple effects.

To help specifically demonstrate benefits to communities, the report includes case studies that document long-term economic benefits from reduced costs of juvenile crime, health care and social services, greater employment opportunities for the disabled and homeless, revitalized urban areas, and advanced longevity and quality of life from medical cures and treatments derived from scientific research.

Other outcomes include improved worker education and productivity, as well as a thriving business environment given the importance of schools, hospitals, cultural organizations, and other charitable enterprises to a community’s ability to attract and retain businesses. Of course, philanthropic support for entrepreneurship and the ecosystem that supports it can be even more far reaching.

–John Tyler, chair of The Philanthropic Collaborative

Helping Americans better understand the impact of philanthropy

Posted on by

A message from Vikki N. Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations:

According to recent studies by the Philanthropic Awareness Initiative, only 1 in 10 engaged Americans can give an example of a foundation’s impact on an issue they care about. Yet 8 in 10 engaged Americans think it would be a loss for their community if foundations no longer existed.

This past year presented philanthropic leaders with the grave reality of how delicately the charitable sector hangs in the balance of broader national issues. For nearly 100 years our government has provided an incentive for American generosity, but as our country’s leaders grapple with finding fiscally responsible solutions, their decisions may result in limits on philanthropic giving. If we aspire to foster a more philanthropic society, more Americans must understand our sector’s role and the impact of our work in communities around the globe.

Americans recognize the importance of philanthropy but they cannot readily identify it. It’s time for philanthropy to take a more proactive role in promoting our collective impact. We should come together on behalf of the broader causes we champion to build more awareness among Americans about the impact and opportunity our daily work fuels in communities across the globe. We must replace organizational and transactional communications with a collaborative strategy about our impact and encourage each other to apply our individual strengths and expertise collectively in the search for solutions to social problems.

If we can increase the visibility of our respective issues and build awareness of how we collectively advance them, more Americans will understand the role we play and will reaffirm the strong tradition and future importance of the charitable sector. We will have a clear sense that we are putting issue priorities ahead of organizational ones and are creating a better world.

The Effect on Philanthropy of Fiscal Cliff Aversion

Posted on by

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) in a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. The following provides pieces of the bill relevant to the philanthropic sector.

  • The charitable deduction will continue to be coupled with an individual’s or household’s corresponding tax rate. In other words, there is no cap on charitable deductions.
  • The tax rate will be increased to 39.6 percent for individuals making more than $400,000 a year and households making more than $450,000. The previous rate for those earners was 35 percent.
  • The estate tax will have a $10 million exemption for couples, $5 million for individuals, and a top tax rate of 40 percent.
  • The bill extends the IRA charitable rollover through December 31, 2013. This provision permits tax-free distributions to an eligible charity from an IRA held by someone age 70½ or older of up to $100,000 per taxpayer, per taxable year.
  • The provision includes two transition rules to allow donors to make 2012 contributions. First, the extension allows individuals who received an IRA distribution in December 2012 to elect to count that distribution (or a portion thereof) as a 2012 IRA charitable rollover if the individual transfers the amount in cash before February 1, 2013, to an eligible charity. Additionally, the extension allows donors to make distributions directly to eligible charities before February 1, 2013, and elect to have such distributions treated as qualified charitable distributions in 2012. This change may be of particular benefit to donors who would like to take advantage of the rollover in both 2012 and 2013.

In 2013, itemized deductions for higher income taxpayers will be reduced by the lesser of (1) 3 percent of the amount by which the taxpayer’s income exceeds $250,000 for individual filers, $275,000 for heads of households, or $300,000 for married couples filing jointly (these amounts are adjusted annually for inflation) or

(2) 80 percent of the value of the taxpayer’s itemized deductions. This reduction of itemized deductions is referred to as the Pease Limitation.

Source: Council of Foundations

Non-profit trends for 2013 and beyond

Posted on by

Nell Edgington predicts these non-profit trends:

1. More Demand for Outcomes – A growing demand for nonprofits to 1) articulate what results they hope their work with achieve and 2) track whether those results are actually happening. This increasing focus on nonprofit outcomes is leading to the 4 other trends:

2. Decreasing Emphasis on Nonprofit “Overhead” – The good news is that more and more people are coming to realize that you can’t just invest in programs without the staff, infrastructure and fundraising to make those programs happen.

3. More Advocacy for the Sector as a Whole – Instead of  a fractured grouping of organizations of various sizes, business models, and issue areas, … we will start to see the sector organize, mobilize and build confidence.

4. Savvier Donors – Because nonprofits are getting more savvy, donors are as well. They are starting to recognize that nonprofits cannot exist on revenue alone, but must have infusions of capital every once and awhile to strengthen and grow their staff, technology, systems, and fundraising.

5. Increased Efforts to Rate and Compare Nonprofits – We will increasingly evaluate nonprofits based on the results they achieve, not on how they spend their money, which requires a whole infrastructure for evaluating and rating nonprofits emerges.

Remaining significant as a non-profit

Posted on by

For more traditional nonprofits, targeting millennials is an investment in the future instead of a tactic to immediately generate funds.

The Salvation Army, one of the nation’s oldest charities, recently increased its focus on involving young people after a series of focus groups showed that few students in high school and college knew what the organization did.

“It was a hard slap in the face,” says Major George Hood, the Salvation Army’s national community relations and development secretary. “It said to us we’ve got to go to work on this or there’s going to be a day where we will not have any donors left.”

Now the organization hosts an annual concert featuring teen favorites like Owl City and sponsors Red Kettle Clubs for philanthropy in high schools around the country. It also debuted an online Red Kettle for people to launch online fundraisers, which Hood says are popular among their younger donors. All are attempts to help Millennials personally identify with the Salvation Army brand.

“They want that relationship and they want to believe that they’re really making an impact on someone’s life,” he says. “If you can come up with that ingredient, you’re ready to go.”

The Business of Giving

Posted on by

With the explosion of private enterprise in many parts of the world, there are more wealthy people looking for ways to give back to their communities. Business leaders in areas like Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and China are exploring ways to contribute to society.

Some may wonder where business and philanthropy intersect. I believe that a healthy public sector is absolutely essential to a capitalist economy. When more money is invested in areas such as education and public welfare, it generally strengthens the environment in which businesses operate. This can result in a virtuous cycle where a better business environment leads to better profits that can lead to increased philanthropy.

What really excites me is how business has informed the philanthropic sector. Historically, corporate philanthropy was little more than a one-time gift of money that met an immediate need, often totally unrelated to a company’s mission. Today, however, there is a new area—strategic philanthropy—involving corporations that find ways to link their philanthropy to their business strategy. Companies increasingly are finding synergies between these two areas so that both profit and philanthropic efforts are under the same strategic umbrella.

Many large corporations have embraced strategic philanthropy. Networking technology giant Cisco offers free technology courses and certifications that are taught using Cisco equipment. American Express provides travel agent training online, free of charge. Dannon sells its Danone Dahi, a nutrient-enriched yogurt tailored to the health needs of many of India’s impoverished children, at a low cost.

These philanthropic efforts help society, but they also result in profit for the company. By creating a financial return to the company they can then reinvest these funds to create a sustainable philanthropic effort.  There is an old Chinese proverb that says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Strategic philanthropy is the modern equivalent of teaching someone to fish. 

–Excerpts of an article by Philip L. Cochran, associate dean Indiana University Kelley School of Business

How nonprofits convince Millennials to give

Posted on by

Charity: water, Scott Harrison’s nonprofit organization, is at the fore of a tough task for the nonprofit sector: convincing the Millennial generation, underemployed and often dubbed apathetic compared to their predecessors, to give some of the little money to charity. For a sector overly reliant on generating money from an aging Baby Boomer population, getting young Millennials donating to nonprofits early is a key to long-term sustainability. That’s why many charities are working to develop a more interactive, customizable, and transparent giving experience.

“The Millennial generation is about identifying with a cause,” says Marc Chardon,the CEO of Blackbaud, a software developer for nonprofits that tracks giving trends. “[Donating] has become very personal and local.”

In charity: water’s case, that means encouraging supporters to be not only donors but also fundraisers. Half of the funds generated by the organization come from an online fundraising platform in which individuals create their own personal fundraising campaigns on behalf of the nonprofit. Often, people use the platform on their birthdays and ask others to donate their age in dollars instead of providing gifts. Sometimes the fundraisers are more inventive—in September a woman raised $30,000 by promising to swim across the San Francisco Bay naked, while an 8-year-old generated $15,000 by eating rice and beans for 25 days and promising her family would donate the savings made from buying cheaper groceries.

“Many charities go out and just ask people for money,” Harrison says. “We ask people for their voice.”

It’s an approach that seems to resonate with Millennials. The average age of mycharity: water’s users is 33. The fundraisers have generated almost $20 million total since the platform was launched in 2009, mostly through small donations of less than $100. The organization’s pledge to use all donated funds on fieldwork (private donors fund organizational costs) also assuages young people’s tendency to distrust formal institutions. In a post-recession environment where charitable giving has shrunk, charity: water has increased its donations each year since its founding.

TIME

Why millions of people choose to live in urban slums

Posted on by

About one-third of the urban population in developing countries are slum dwellers.

There is something viscerally repulsive about urban poverty: the stench of open sewers, the choking smoke of smoldering trash heaps, the pools of fetid drinking water filmed with the rainbow color of chemical spills. It makes poverty in the countryside seem almost Arcadian by comparison. The rural poor may lack nutrition, health care, education, and infrastructure; still, they do the backbreaking work of tending farms in settings that not only are more bucolic, but also represent the condition of most of humanity for most of history. With life so squalid in urban slums, why would anyone want to move there?

Because slums are better than the alternative. Most people who’ve experienced both rural and urban poverty choose to stay in slums rather than move back to the countryside. For all the real horrors of slum existence today, it still usually beats staying in a village.

Start with the simple reason that most people leave the countryside: money. Moving to cities makes economic sense — rich countries are urbanized countries, and rich people are predominantly town and city dwellers. Just 600 cities worldwide account for 60 percent of global economic output, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Slum dwellers may be at the bottom of the urban heap, but most are better off than their rural counterparts.

Although about half the world’s population is urban, only a quarter of those living on less than a dollar a day live in urban areas. In Brazil, for example, where the word “poor” conjures images of Rio’s vertiginous favelas … only 5 percent of the urban population is classified as extremely poor, compared with 25 percent of those living in rural areas.

But is it much of a life, eking out an existence in today’s urban squalor? Our image of modern slums comes from films like Slumdog Millionaire, portraits of India’s urban underclass not all that far removed from the horrifying picture of 19th-century industrialization in Charles Dickens’s novels about the misery and violence of London’s slum dwellers. But slum living today, for all its failings, is markedly better than it was in Dickens’s time.

For one thing, urban quality of life now involves a lot more actual living. Through most of history, death rates in cities were so high that urban areas only maintained population levels through constant migration from the countryside. In Dickensian Manchester, for instance, the average life expectancy was just 25 yearsAcross the world today, thanks to vaccines and underground sewage systems, average life expectancies in big cities are considerably higher than those in the countryside; in sub-Saharan Africa, cities with a population over 1 million have had infant mortality rates one-third lower than those in rural areas. In fact, most of today’s urban population growth comes not from waves of villagers moving to the city, but city folks having kids and living longer.

Article continues