Philanthropedia Blog

Archive for March, 2011

Exciting Announcement: GuideStar Acquires Philanthropedia

March 17th, 2011

Today, we are thrilled to announce GuideStar’s acquisition of Philanthropedia.

GuideStar is the industry leader in nonprofit data with information on more than 1.8 million nonprofits. They have been a long-time supporter of our work and are excited to help us expand our research. And, as an industry leader, GuideStar has a national audience of millions of professionals, funders, advisors, individuals, and others meaning we can finally reach that larger audience we had hoped to reach. The Philanthropedia team will remain intact in our Silicon Valley office in Menlo Park, CA, which will become GuideStar’s west coast office.

You can read the official press release on GuideStar’s website.

Our Story

While the idea for Philanthropedia began in 2008, it wasn’t until the last year and a half that we formally grew and developed the idea into what you see on our site today. When we began in June 2009 as an incorporated entity, applying for our own nonprofit status, we just had the results from our pilot study in education. Thirty nine experts had recommended 8 top nonprofits. Admittedly, our methodology had a long way to go, but even with that small experiment, we were able to prove that there was something interesting about this idea and that just maybe, we’d be able to leverage a resource that had never been leveraged before: experts’ knowledge of high-impact nonprofits.

In 2010, with incredible support from the Hewlett Foundation, we committed to refining our methodology and two iterations later, we have a version that again and again produces consistent and increasingly high quality results across causes and geographies. With our methodology refined, our next goal was to scale our work to cover the most interesting causes to donors. By the end of 2010, we had grown to cover 15 causes (at the local, national, international, and disaster relief levels), recommending just under 200 top nonprofits by surveying 1,400 experts. Additionally, we collected expert reviews on another 1,500 nonprofits bringing our total number of reviews to-date to more than 10,000.

Our goal has always been to provide more and better information to donors about high impact nonprofits so that donors can give more strategically, make a bigger impact with their own philanthropic money, and ultimately, increase the pace of social change. So last fall, we asked ourselves: what’s next? Do we continue to run our research, expanding into more local, national, and international causes? Well, yes, that’s certainly something we would like to do. However, what about the reach of this information? We’ve always tried to think about how we can reach more donors and influence a broader audience. However, with so many great initiatives in the nonprofit sector today, we had a hunch that to really accomplish this, we couldn’t go it alone. That’s why, over this last year and a half, we’ve been keen on partnering with our colleagues in the sector, including GuideStar, GiveWell, Root Cause, GreatNonprofits, and many others.

GuideStar has been a long-time supporter of our work, reassuring us that they value our contribution to the sector and have every intention of supporting us to continue expanding our research. GuideStar is an industry leader in nonprofit data and transparency. With the complete database of more than 1.8 million nonprofits, the data-nerd in us is giddy with excitement about the opportunity to be able to interact with that data and use it to further our work and the work of the sector.

In our perfect world, we’d be able to work more closely and formally with a partner organization to be able to continue running our research, but at the same time, reach a wider audience. Therefore, when GuideStar approached us about an acquisition, we were incredibly excited about the potential of this arrangement. Therefore, it is with the greatest excitement that we announce today GuideStar’s acquisition of Philanthropedia. Rest assured we will continue to run our research, expand into new causes, re-run past causes, and explore new ways to collect expert reviews of high impact nonprofits—all with the continued goal of directing more dollars to those outstanding organizations.

We want to thank you all for your incredible support over the last few years—we could not have been able to accomplish such scale without your commitment to openly sharing information about nonprofits and without your interest in learning about that data. We hope we can continue to count on your support as we move onto this next phase of our work and find a new, wonderful home for our small start-up.

Thank you again and we invite you will stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear about which causes we’ll be researching in 2011!

With our warmest wishes and gratitude,

The Philanthropedia Team

 

Research on high-impact workforce development nonprofits in Minnesota!

March 14th, 2011

We are expanding our research to Minnesota! The Minnesota Community Foundation and the Saint Paul Community Foundation are partnering with Philanthropedia to bring our methodology to their community. Through this partnership, we hope to identify nonprofits that are doing outstanding work in the areas of workforce development and the environment in Minnesota.

The purpose of this blog post is to explain:

  1. Why we think workforce development is an interesting area to research in Minnesota
  2. What are some of the nuances of the issue area that helped us decide what type of nonprofits we ought to include in our research

…so you can understand what we considered as we refined our thinking about the research.

If you are an expert in workforce development in Minnesota, you should have received an email from us with a link to our survey and we hope you will share your perspective and insights with us! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact me at dawn.kwan@myphilanthropedia.org.

Additionally, I’m sure I haven’t been able to capture every nuance in this sector, so I invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might think about this work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, I hope you will learn something new and tune in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!

These findings were a result of interviewing seventeen influential experts in the field. I want to thank them for their time in sharing their expertise with me.

——

The workforce development field is focused on helping people get the skills and the jobs they need to sustain themselves and their family, and connecting employers who need skilled workers. This is usually talked about in the terms of supply and demand.

Workforce development is a continuum of economic development. Economic development is usually defined as providing capital, infrastructure, skilled workers, and other factors to attract and maintain businesses in an area. However, this is beyond the scope of our research, so we will only focus on workforce development.

Definitions of Supply and Demand:

Supply (the worker): This part of workforce development is about building the skills of workers, training workers, giving workers access to the resources they need to connect them with jobs or training, providing education or continuing education through university, community college, or alternative education routes, providing technical training and credentialing programs, moving people to work, helping people with job retention and stability, and helping people advance to better jobs.

Demand (the business): This part of workforce development is about creating new jobs, helping businesses develop positions that have potential career ladders within for workers, encouraging businesses to train and develop their employees or provide businesses with services to train their employees.

As a result, business needs (such as type of skills and type of industry) informs the curriculum developed for many of the programs. For example a lot of the training programs are tailored to the most important industries in Minnesota for workforce development, such as manufacturing, agriculture/food processing, health care, electronics (especially medical devices), renewable energy (especially wind and solar energy), health care, transportation, and finance. Within Minnesota, there is an increasing focus on providing education, job training, and certificate programs to help workers acquire the job they desire.

It is also important to note that workforce development is not only about acquiring skills but also about access to jobs. The Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC recently released a study about unemployment by metropolitan area and race. The black-white unemployment ratio in the Minneapolis metropolitan area was three times the white rate, which was one of the highest in the nations (Source). This problem is currently being approached by organizations from a policy and educational standpoint.

Minnesota has a huge population of new immigrants. Many of the new immigrants prefer to start their own businesses rather than plug into the existing industry infrastructure. As a result, we are also including small business development and entrepreneurship training as a component of our research.

From our interviews we have identified the following types of organizations that work in this field, and have invited experts in each of these categories to share their perspective with us:

  1. Funders: National foundations funding in Minnesota, local foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations, the state and local governments.
  2. Education Institutions: Community and technical colleges, and other organizations that provide career education.
  3. Community Based Organizations and Service Providers: Nonprofits that provide services to connect individuals with resources (education, training, networks, employers, career centers, etc.), or nonprofits that run businesses which employ people for job training (social enterprises).
  4. Advocacy Organizations
  5. Labor Unions
  6. Business and Industry Associations, Chambers of Commerce
  7. Technical Assistance Providers
  8. Alternative Staffing Agencies
  9. Research and Policy Organizations

These organizations could be focused on job training, job placement, access to jobs, youth work readiness, small business development and entrepreneurship training for people with lack of access to jobs, job retention/stability, and helping employers invest in their own workforce, etc. These nonprofits might work with various populations: adults wishing to gain additional skills, immigrants, youth (around career education), adults or youth with disabilities, refugees, welfare recipients, elders, homeless people, formerly imprisoned people, businesses, or the community at large. And these nonprofits might focus on different kinds of activities: policy, research, advocacy, direct services, education, technical assistance, social enterprise (nonprofits that run businesses which employ people for job training), etc.  Specifically excluded from consideration are for-profit community/technical colleges, chambers of commerce, government agencies, labor unions, and for-profit organizations such as head hunting and for-profit job placement companies.

These are just a summary of my notes after having talked to seventeen experts in the workforce development field. What do you think? What have I missed? What might you add? Please feel free to leave a comment and help build on these notes.

Research on high-impact environmental nonprofits in Minnesota!

March 14th, 2011

We are expanding our research to Minnesota! The Minnesota Community Foundation and the Saint Paul Community Foundation are partnering with Philanthropedia to bring our methodology to their community. Through this partnership, we hope to identify nonprofits that are doing outstanding work in the areas of workforce development and the environment in Minnesota.

The purpose of this blog post is to explain:

  1. Why we think the environment is an interesting area to research in Minnesota
  2. What are some of the nuances of the issue area that helped us decide what type of nonprofits we ought to include in our research

…so you can understand what we considered as we refined our thinking about the research.

If you are an expert in the environment in Minnesota, you should have received an email from us with a link to our survey and we hope you will share your perspective and insights with us! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact me at dawn.kwan@myphilanthropedia.org.

Additionally, I’m sure I haven’t been able to capture every nuance in this sector, so I invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might think about this work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, I hope you will learn something new and tune in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!

These findings were a result of interviewing sixteen influential experts in the field. I want to thank them for their time to share their expertise with me.

——

The environment is of huge importance to Minnesotans. This was made clear on November 4, 2008, when Minnesota voters approved a proposed Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment that raised the sales and use tax rate by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales. Out of the four funds, three were dedicated to environment and conservation. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is meant to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for game, fish, and wildlife. The Clean Water Fund is meant to protect, enhance, and restore water quality in lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. And the Parks and Trails Fund is meant to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance. (Source)

After speaking with experts in the field, I realized there are many sub-topics within the environment in Minnesota. Here are some of the main topics that kept emerging from the interviews I had with experts in the field.

  1. Water Quality & Quantity: Minnesota is widely perceived as a water-rich state. After all, it is known as “the land of 10,000 lakes.” However, of the lakes that have been tested, 30 percent are polluted. In Northern Minnesota, one of the main issues some people worry about is the newly proposed copper and nickel mine because of the pollution it might emit into the nearby waters. This mine is near the boundary waters canoe area wilderness which is the most visited wilderness in the U.S.
  2. Land Conservation: This includes the conservation of native grasslands, prairies, forests, and wetlands.
  3. Air Quality: This pertains to air pollution which is an important issue in Minnesota because of its coal-fired power plants.
  4. Renewable Energy: All forms of renewable energy are important for the issue pertaining to climate change and job creation. In particular, Minnesota is among the nation’s leaders in wind energy production.
  5. Providing Access to the Outdoors (Parks & Trails): Minnesotans value the outdoors tremendously, hence providing access to the outdoors in the forms of parks and trails is an important environmental issue.
  6. Habitat Preservation: This includes protecting habitats for game, fish, and wildlife.
  7. Climate Change: Some experts describe climate change as one of the most important problems, hence we felt despite the controversy around this topic, we ought to include this in the scope of our research. Furthermore, it is closely tied to renewable energy, biomass research, and habitat preservation.
  8. Sustainable Development: This is closely tied to climate change and is about developing socially just and economically sustainable communities, which includes smart growth, planning transits, and corridors.

From our interviews we have identified the following types of organizations that work in this field, and have invited experts in each of these categories to share their perspective with us:

  1. Funders: National foundations funding in Minnesota, local foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations, the state and local governments.
  2. Government Entities: Department of Natural Resources, Board of Soil and Water Resources, Pollution Control Agency, Forest Resources Council, Office of Energy Security, Department of Transportation.
  3. Nonprofit Organizations: Nonprofits that educate the public, do advocacy work, or provide direct services, this includes environmentalist and sportsmen groups.
  4. Associations: Lake Associations, Chamber of Commerce, and other types of associations.
  5. Research and Policy Organizations
  6. Business and Industry Associations

Therefore, the scope of this research will be focused on nonprofits organizations that could work on on water, land and air conservation, renewable energy, providing access to the outdoors (parks and trails), habitat preservation (wildlife conservation), climate change, and sustainable development (land use planning, transportation). And these nonprofits might focus on different kinds of activities: policy, research, advocacy, direct services, education, or be community based organizations. Specifically excluded from consideration are organizations that focus on agriculture and food, environmental health, and green building.

These are just a summary of my notes after having talked to sixteen experts in the environment field. What do you think? What have I missed? What might you add? Please feel free to leave a comment and help build on these notes.


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