Three big multi-year grants went out from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation starting in 2014 to investigate and support “Social Innovation Financing.” And this is just part of the picture of what the Arnolds are doing to fund Pay for Success (PFS) initiatives. What is going on with this new trend?
We’ve all heard the complaint: Nonprofits, even some of the great ones, just can’t get to the scale needed to have real impact. And funders, even ones that believe in these nonprofits, too often won’t lift a finger to help organizations really break out.
Well, here’s a story about a funder that set out to break this familiar pattern, and what it learned.
In 2007, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) launched something called the Growth Capital Aggregation Pilot, which was a collaborative funding effort to mobilize $120 million in capital to “propel the growth of effective nonprofits poised for scale.”
The foundation was taking some big risks. It was taking a risk on the three social service grantees in which it initially made exponential investments. It was also risking its time and money, as it not only rounded up a number of funders to join the effort, but greatly increased its own investments.
The latest news of big foundation funding to create tomorrow’s workforce comes from Virtual Enterprises International (VEI), which is starting a VE Junior Ventures Career Academy for middle schoolers to immerse them in hands-on entrepreneurial and work-based learning experiences. The funding for this expanding effort will come from the New York Life Foundation, which will invest $1 million over four years to support the Academy.
We’ve featured the New York Life Foundation’s work before, particularly its massive support for childhood bereavement—helping children navigate the difficult terrain of loss and the accompanying emotional adjustments. With this new grant, the foundation is more focused on youth educational enhancement rather than emotional support, and this time it is filling a critical niche in the path of young people into productive careers.
It appears that Harry Potter books bring the power of “Lumos” to the world in more ways than one. While research suggests that young people who read the Harry Potter books are more tolerant and compassionate, and while the books have sprouted a millennial-style fandom nonprofit called the Harry Potter Alliance, the greatest contribution to human progress may be coming directly from the author, J.K. Rowling, and her profound understanding of the disservice that institutionalization does to children—and how we need to move away from it as a model to address emotional, behavioral, and social problems.
Rowling recently came to New York to announce the start of Lumos USA, the new U.S.-based outpost of the nonprofit she founded in 2005. The goal of Lumos is to redirect the care of disadvantaged children away from group homes and orphanages, and find more ways to support them, and their families, in the community. Its target is the 8 million children worldwide who are cared for in institutions.
Since the Great Recession, a slew of new workforce development efforts have launched all across the country, but how much do the different programs know about each other, and how can proven strategies be effectively replicated?
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is on the case. This Boston-based fund is a group with a long list of big-name foundations working to improve career advancement for low-wage workers. By engaging employers in more than 30 communities across the U.S., the National Fund develops employer-led industry partnerships that guide educational and training investments. This is the kind of employer-employee matching that makes for strong, long-term employment prospects, and a more stable economy for the region.
Honda is best known as a car maker, but it also has a charitable foundation that is doing some interesting things to drive the American economy in the right direction, as we’ve been reporting lately.
A case in point: Honda recently announced a new, $1 million investment in Ohio-based workforce development for an innovative program called EPIC, which will focus on creating more interest in manufacturing careers and bolstering education and training for the high-tech manufacturing jobs of the future.
Before saying more about this grant, let’s just pause to note the irony: A Japanese car company that famously helped bury Detroit, once the core of American industrial know-how, wants to revive the kind of skilled U.S. workforce that ended up with pink slips in an earlier era as foreign cars filled the roads.
It’s a fascinating time in health care philanthropy, as funders ramp up a sprawling and ambitious push to improve the most dysfunctional health care system in the world.
Over the past year, we’ve covered the pivot of top health care funders away from a historic battle to expand access—now largely won with implementation of Obamacare—to an even tougher challenge: reining in costs while improving care and, more daunting still, boosting the overall health of Americans.