My Favorite New Trends in Philanthropy Part I

philanthropyBy Carrie Blanding

We’ve all been there: you’re at a conference, or a fund development meeting, or coffee with a colleague, and the conversation turns to What Is Wrong With The Current Funding System. We commiserate about the perils of chasing program funding. We lament the scarcity of general operating support. We share stories of insane reporting requirements. . . .

But lately when these conversations come up I find myself irresistibly bringing up the bright side. Why? Because for the past six months I’ve been reading a lot about philanthropy, and the beautiful truth is that I’m seeing some good ideas out there. Some of them are still just a twinkle in the eye of an academic, but others are starting to take hold and influence the way funding gets distributed.

So let’s take a little break from thinking about what’s not working, and focus on a few encouraging trends in the philanthropic sector. In this three-part series, I’ll write about a few of my favorites: improved assessment tools for donors, smarter thinking about capital, and outcome-oriented philanthropy.

Part 1: Improved Assessment Tools for Donors

Remember when organizational effectiveness was determined by how much a nonprofit spent on overhead? Well ring the bells, because that clumsy old metric is on its way out! The current trend is to look beyond simplistic ratios and empower donors with more well-rounded assessment tools.

The movement away from overhead ratios has been making headlines lately. By now we’ve all seen Dan Pallotta’s TED talk on the subject. Much more exciting, in my opinion, is this open letter denouncing the “overhead myth,” signed by the CEOs of Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wisegiving Alliance.

In their words, the letter “marks the beginning of a campaign to correct the common misconception that [overhead] … is, on its own, an appropriate metric to evaluate when assessing a charity’s worthiness and efficiency.”

While the campaign is new, the idea is not. Various foundations, consultants, and information providers have been thinking hard about this issue for some time. That’s good news because it means that several new and improved online assessment tools have already been (or are being) developed.

Perhaps the most accessible of these is Philanthropedia. This site allows anyone to view free ratings of nonprofits based on peer assessments. Developed at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, launched in 2009 with funding from the Hewlett Foundation, and acquired by Guidestar in 2011, this young site is a testament to how the goal of improving donors’ access to information is supported across the philanthropic sector.

The arts are well represented on Philanthropedia, with twenty-one rankings of Bay Area arts nonprofits, and seventeen national rankings. The site only ranks its “top nonprofits,” refraining from singling out any groups as not worthy of support. It does, however, allow users to view the peer comments (both positive and negative) that it receives for non-ranked nonprofits.

Another new offering from Guidestar, with the Nonprofit Finance Fund, is Financial SCAN. Launched in 2012, this tool attempts to evaluate an organization’s financial health over the long term, in a more comprehensive way than ever before. Priced at $2,500 a year, Financial SCAN appears to be primarily intended for large foundations and financial advisers.

Charity Navigator, a ratings site available to the general public, is a bit behind the times but poised to catch up. Currently this site only rates nonprofits on financial health, accountability, and transparency, but they are working towards adding “results reporting” (basically impact measurement) to their evaluation criteria by 2016.

If you’re interested in getting a bigger-picture view of how this trend can improve the nonprofit world, check out this 2008 white paper from the Hewlett Foundation. In the report, the foundation describes its vision for a bustling nonprofit marketplace in which individual donors, empowered with better information, efficiently direct their resources to the best nonprofits. We’re not there yet, but we seem to be moving in the right direction.

Stay tuned for my next installment: an ode to growth capital!

C.Blanding_PhotoAbout Carrie Blanding

Carrie Blanding is currently on a research sabbatical in which she gets to blissfully romp through the most interesting nonprofit literature every day. She is particularly fascinated by organizational sustainability, personal resilience, effective philanthropy, and management theory.

Previously, she has been executive director of the the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and co-founder/principal of Next Big Thing Children’s Theatre. She earned her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and received the department award for academic achievement.

An avid singer, Carrie has at times been a member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, a jazz vocalist, and a singer-songwriter pouring her heart out at your neighborhood bar.

Emergence 2013: A Day of Uncommon Learning with EAP

Emergence 2013Join Emerging Arts Professionals / San Francisco Bay Area on June 3 at 10:00 a.m. at SPUR Urban Center  for Emergence, our daylong annual convening.

Emergence provides a collaborative platform for Bay Area arts and culture workers to connect, share ideas, and elevate their work and voices.

This, our third year, revolves around three overarching themes calling for attention: open systems: talking diversity beyond butts-in-seats, networked approaches: the power of collaboration, and regenerative practices: how individuals and organizations sustain themselves.

We’ve reached out to our community to gather thoughts on these topics — thoughts informing the flow of conversation throughout the day. Shaking up the typical conference model, Emergence presents an experience to engage and energize. Learning will unfold in many directions, demanding your input while sparking new ideas.

From the interactive morning keynote to an afternoon yoga break to the final session — a “fishbowl” exercise to synthesize the day’s ideas and lessons — you’ll be stimulated and renewed. Reflecting the very themes we’ll discuss during the day, sessions are designed to be multi-perspective, participatory, and restorative. As a group, we’ll capture emerging ideas to inform our plans for the year ahead while reflecting on and celebrating the work of our outgoing fellows.

Register today! Space is limited.
Tickets are $40 with 50% discount volunteer rate available. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, email adam [at] emergingsf [dot] org.


Emergence Schedule 



Frances Phillips, program director, Arts and the Creative Work Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund
Favianna Rodriguez, artist and organizer
Ernesto Sopprani, EAP director of community engagement, founder director of the [ABC] Consortium and THEOFFCENTER
Gregory Stock,  public programs educator and event specialist, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco



Brianna Haag, SF marketing manager at Eventbrite
Emma Leggat, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at StubHub
Alison Murdock, VP of Marketing at GigaOM and board member at Music in Schools Today
Facilitated by Maura Lafferty,  independent PR consultant


Lynn Johnsonco-Founder/CEO, Glitter & Razz Productions
Tammy Johnsondancer and organizational equity consultant
Ron Ragin, program officer for the arts, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Clare Wintertonexecutive director of the International Museum of Women
Facilitated by Karena SalmondEAP fellow & program director, Performing Arts Workshop


Emma Bailey, Associate Producer, Citizen Film,  Co-Host, Spokespeople
Carrie Blanding, former executive director of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Yesenia Sanchez
coach and consultant



Facilitated conversation


Awele Makeba, producer of free performance series by Magic Theatre at Laney College
Rebecca Novick; director of the Triangle Lab (Intersection for the Arts & Cal Shakes)
Facilitated by Arielle Julia Brown, EAP fellow & theatre teaching artist, Destiny Arts Center & artistic director, The Love Balm Project

Facilitated conversation

Yoga with Julie Potter, Senior Program Manager at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Facilitated by Adam Fong, director of EAP & executive director of Center for New Music



Speakers and Facilitators

Carrie Blanding, former executive director of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Arielle Julia Brown, EAP fellow & theatre teaching artist, Destiny Arts Center & artistic director, The Love Balm Project
Adam Fong, director of EAP & executive director of Center for New Music
Brianna Haag, SF marketing manager at Eventbrite
Clara Hatcher, president & co-founder, Bay Area Emerging Museum Professionals
Lynn Johnson, co-Founder/CEO, Glitter & Razz Productions
Tammy Johnson, dancer and organizational equity consultant
Maura Lafferty, independent PR consultant
Emma Leggat, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at StubHub
Lex Leifheit, executive director, SOMArts Cultural Center
Awele Makeba, producer of free performance series by Magic Theatre at Laney College
Alison Murdock, VP of Marketing at GigaOM and board member at Music in Schools Today
Rebecca Novick, director of the Triangle Lab (Intersection for the Arts & Cal Shakes)
Frances Phillips, program director, Arts and the Creative Work Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund
Julie Potter, program assistant, Community Engagement and Performing Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Ron Ragin, program officer for the arts, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Favianna Rodriguez, artist and organizer
Karena Salmond, EAP fellow & program director, Performing Arts Workshop
Yesenia Sanchez, coach and consultant
Ernesto Sopprani, EAP director of community engagement, founder director of the Arts Building Consortium and THEOFFCENTER
Gregory Stock, public programs educator and event specialist, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Sean Waugh, assistant to the director of artistic administration, SF Opera
Clare Winterton, executive director of the International Museum of Women
Tyese Wortham, program associate, cultural equity grants, San Francisco Arts Commission

To see what Emergence is all about, read the recaps from last year’s convening.

SPUR Urban Center
654 Mission Street (between 2nd and 3rd)
San Francisco, CA 94105

Join our collaborative Notepad by clicking the image below


Bay Area Arts Skyline 2015 Event Recap

The Arts Skyline 2015What will the Bay Area arts skyline look like in 2015? The cultural landscape is constantly evolving in the Bay Area. New openings, closings, and innovations are inevitable in a metropolitan area. On March 27, EAP hosted a panel of leaders in the arts fields at the Center for New Music to discuss the challenges facing local arts institutions, small and large.

The panel featured Barrett Shaver, director of development, SF JAZZ; Christopher Borg, executive director, Community Music Center; Gina Basso, public programs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Jack Carpenter, production director, SF Ethnic Dance Festival.

Though looking towards the future was ultimately on everyone’s minds, the conversation stayed within the current context. Themes of the conversation revolved around staffing, capital campaigns, space, and project-based venues versus an actual building. We wanted to share some kernels of the experience with our larger network. Also, we love to continue the conversation beyond the brick and mortar, so feel free to add your comments.

Adam Fong, executive director of both Emerging Arts Professionals / SFBA and the Center for New Music, took the brave task of navigating the arts skyline with consistency and curiosity.

Some highlights of the current Bay Area Arts Skyline

The Exploratorium closed in Fall 2012 at the Palace of Fine Arts and will re-open on April 17 at Pier 15 with a new building.

The SFMOMA will be closing its doors for three years on June 2 to make way for construction of a 235,000 square foot addition. Until early 2016, the SFMOMA will present new art experiences around the Bay Area as the building is transformed.

SF JAZZ recently opened a brand new facility on the corner of Franklin and Fell streets to wide acclaim, moving from project-based to a cultural institution.

The Community Music Center will be expanding with the purchase of a neighboring house. Christopher Borg says it will make CMC more of a “campus.” CMC has been in the same building in the Mission district since 1921.

World Arts West, the organization hosting the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, continues to have the conversation about finding a permanent home, believing they need to make the move to a more established organization within the city.

There is a light that never goes out

Overall, the tone is continuing to strive to be experimental with space, programming, and money. As we continue to move through the economic recession towards recovery, new spaces can mean new opportunity and hopefully engaging new audiences with a stronger brand than project-based models. Though institutions grow and consolidate, seeking new ways to engage audiences is at the heart of the conversation. And as Ms. Basso said, the SFMOMA is screwing little light bulbs across the city throughout 2016. But, don’t worry the lights won’t go out!

About Gregory Stock

Gregory coordinates public programs at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco along with a team of four under the direction of Renee Baldocchi. At the de Young, he provides support and logistics of Friday Nights at the de Young, a weekly “art happening” public and free event for all ages themed to the permanent collection and special exhibitions. At the Legion of Honor, he coordinates the Chamber Music Series and special exhibition programming. Other programs include special lectures and academic symposiums for special exhibitions. Interests cross between public art, digital tools, collaboration and social enterprise. He has been in the Bay Area for four years and graduated from Saint Louis University with a BA in American studies and history.