New technology helps you get choosey with charities

More than any other innovation, the digital revolution has had the most influence on helping donors choose the causes they want to support. On the one hand, charities have more free and low-cost digital media options to market themselves and spread the word about the great work they are doing beyond their immediate network. On the other hand, donors can use an array of resources (GuideStar, Charity Navigator) that perform due diligence and ensure that the charity is in compliance with government regulations.

One new website - the Giving Library - steps up the standard vetting of charities, and allows the charities to answer for themselves some of the standard concerns donors often have. The Giving Library features videos from over 250 nonprofits all jostling to captivate donors by telling personal stories of triumph and tragedy. While the Library is still gathering nonprofit stories and remains a relatively small venture (considering that there are more than 1.5 million active nonprofits in the U.S.), the website aims to be a one-stop showcase for charities making impact across sectors.

Another newly-released piece of technology was developed by the OneVietnam Network (with support from the Ford Foundation). OneVietnam is revolutionizing diaspora philanthropy through their innovative charitable giving platform. The organization’s website acts as a social network for the Vietnamese diaspora in the U.S. It integrates with already existing social network giants, but prominently features vetted 501(c)3 organizations that operate community development projects in Vietnam. Donors can choose to give to these organizations “back home”, and are supported by easy-to-use technology, a peer network, and the knowledge that the due diligence has already been done for them. We look forward to seeing this exciting technology spread to other identity-based philanthropy organizations!

While we’re all for technological developments, we like the personal approach to choosing charities as well. When establishing a donor-advised fund at CAAP, our donor services officer can help the fund-holder in choosing causes to support based on their funding preferences, the charity’s legacy, transparency, and accountability. Let us know how we can help you choose charities that will reflect your giving style and help you make a lasting impact on worthy causes.

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Savvy? Improving nonprofit financial literacy

Transparency, fiscal responsibility, accountability: not words that sound very appealing to most. Rather than pouring over cash flow projections, or preparing prospective budgets, many nonprofit executives and staff would prefer to focus on implementing programmatic activities, and positively impacting their communities. However, financial health is crucial to the success of any nonprofit. Funding sources, in particular, look for transparency and accountability in an organization’s finances when making grant decisions. 

A relatively new topic of study, nonprofit financial literacy is the subject of a recent report from the Moody’s Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Only 6.9 percent of respondents claimed financial expertise, and 17 percent self-identified as “novices” when it came to financial literacy.

There are many steps that nonprofits can take to improve their financial savvy. Only 26 percent of respondents stated that their board of directors was “very involved” in financial planning. Financial oversight from the board helps to guide fundraising efforts, and overall strategic decision-making. Keeping accurate financial records will directly affect and lead all future program activities. In addition, keeping a cash reserve and conscripting independent financial audits are good ideas, particularly in today’s volatile economy.

Enhanced financial literacy will improve the overall sustainability of your organization by increasing your chances of obtaining grants, passing due diligence inquiries, and expanding your donor base. In the end, nonprofits need to answer to their donors, through providing transparent, readily available financial statements, and through the efficacy of their programs.

Happy Financial Literacy Month!

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Grantmaking report shows shift towards sustainability

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) is a national membership association of foundations concerned with improving philanthropic strategy and practice. Coinciding with their national conference, GEO released “Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter?: A national study of philanthropy,” a report based on the results of a 2011 survey of 370 foundations. “Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter?” weighs the recent challenges nonprofits face against foundations’ responses, shown through their grantmaking practices.

The last survey GEO conducted (in 2008) found a disconnect between nonprofit needs and funder practices. This discovery led to a few key recommendations:

  1. Provide flexible funding - at steady amounts every year
  2. Engage with stakeholders - which involves soliciting feedback from grantees
  3. Find ways to leverage limited resources - including collaborations with other funders

GEO’s most recent (2011) survey was a follow-up with foundations to measure how well they were implementing these recommendations. Although there were no dramatic changes, there was hardly any deviation - especially significant in recent turbulent economic times. Funders reported:

  • Reducing grantmaking turnaround time by 30 days
  • Sticking to general-operating and capacity-building support grants (mostly flexible unrestricted funds that can be applied towards operations, programs, or services)
  • Engaging with stakeholders, and basing funding around stakeholder recommendations (which led to multiyear, general operating and capacity-building support - shown to improve sustainability)

While not especially groundbreaking news, this report does catalog a shift from the rigid, limited, standalone practices that have characterized grantmaking in years past.

Through this report, GEO contends that general operating support is not going away, which is true if we at the Center for Arab American Philanthropy have anything to say about it. Our latest grant round awarded 12 grassroots nonprofits with general operating support - which has provided these organizations with much-needed flexibility in shaky economic times. We are currently in the midst of our 2012 grant review process; to learn more about our grantmaking, please visit our website.

Photo courtesy Terrence Tak-Shing Tam


Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120


The Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) strengthens the impact of strategic Arab American giving through education, asset building and grantmaking, in order to improve lives and build vibrant communities.

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