Field Notes in Philanthropy

Philanthrōpía: love for mankind. When we say “philanthropy,” we’re including the entire ecosystem of nonprofit workers, organizations, donors, foundations, and volunteers who make up the social sector in the United States.

One in ten American workers is employed by the nonprofit sector, but it seems that most philanthropy in this country happens off the front page. We still struggle to talk about the impact of philanthropy – on elections, on policy, on communities – but we’re living it every day. So we started a podcast to host these conversations, to explore the places where politics, current events, and philanthropy meet.

Field Notes in Philanthropy: It's Hurricane Season

Sep 13, 2018

Episode 9: It’s Hurricane Season

 When disasters strike, they generate a surge of philanthropic giving among Americans of all walks of life, fueled by emotional images and stories in the media. What we call “disaster philanthropy” feels so personal; it isn’t often that words like “data-driven” and “strategic” enter the conversation.

Did you know that even a simple “let’s get coffee” request from a potential funder can cause nonprofit staff serious stress? During this live episode – recorded at the 2018 Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy annual conference – our hosts and their special guests dive into a candid conversation about how unbalanced power dynamics between funders and grantees can manifest themselves even in the simplest of meetings. In front of a live audience, we explore how grantmakers and grantees can better work together - without adding to work.

Episode 7: Why Net Neutrality Matters for Nonprofits

Despite substantial public opposition, Obama-era regulations securing Net Neutrality – a principle that essentially bars Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from playing favorites with different websites – were rolled back by the FCC on June 11, 2018. These changes could pave the way for a new, highly manipulated user experience: movements, media reports, resources, and more that ISPs – or their investors – don’t like, or that don’t make them any money, could end up on the other side of a slow connection. What could this mean for nonprofits – and for the communities they serve?  

Katharine Trendacosta, Policy Analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Larra Clark, Deputy Director for both the Public Library Association (PLA) and the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Information Technology Policy, join the hosts. 

Field Notes in Philanthropy: Tax Cuts and Giving

Jul 16, 2018

Episode 6: Tax Cuts and Giving

 If you’ve ever donated to a nonprofit, you know the power of the charitable tax deduction. You’re reminded in every year-end appeal, and every handwritten receipt you get for donating those “gently used” clothes and housewares.

Nonprofits have long depended on tax incentives to encourage giving, but with the doubling of the Standard Deduction under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, will that incentive go away? And does it matter anyway?


In this episode, Dr. Philip Knight, Executive Director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, and Allison Grayson, Director of Policy Development and Analysis at Independent Sector, help us look to history and speculate about the future to uncover the role of state and federal tax incentives on donor dollars. 


Field Notes in Philanthropy: This One Counts

Jun 18, 2018

Episode 5: This One Counts

The 2020 U.S. Census is at a “high risk” for failure, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Given that the decennial Census is how our government divvies up Congressional representatives, federal program dollars, and a host of other assets, a failed Census could spell chaos for our country. And for the nonprofit sector.

Philanthropy has played a key role in previous censuses, providing the resources and know-how to mobilize community groups, neighbors, and businesses to help ensure an accurate count. Perla Ni, founder and CEO of the Census Outreach Project, and Kyle Caldwell, Executive Director of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, join the hosts to talk about what nonprofits can do this time around.

Field Notes in Philanthropy: That's a Lot of Letters

May 24, 2018

Episode 4: That's a Lot of Letters

  The European Union is about to set the bar for digital data privacy. On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into effect, giving internet users in the EU broad powers to monitor and control how organizations and businesses keep, manage, and use their personal data.

Field Notes in Philanthropy: What’s the Story?

Apr 25, 2018

Episode 3: What’s the Story?

We set out to talk about how and why journalists and the media struggle to cover the news of philanthropy. What we discovered is that it’s often a struggle to cover anything at all. Since the 2016 election, U.S. philanthropy has woken up to the idea that fact-based, independent journalism might need their help – as long as there’s a strict editorial firewall in place.

 Nina Sachdev, Communications Director for Media Impact Funders and Bruce DeBoskey, writer of the Denver Post nationally-syndicated column On Philanthropy, join the hosts to discuss a blossoming symbiotic relationship between the free press and the charitable sector.   

Episode 2: Sittin’ Here on Capitol Hill

Philanthropy and policymaking came head-to-head in national conversations this winter during the tax overhaul debates. Among many others, foundation leaders and associations jumped in to advocate on behalf of the charitable sector. But many foundations have the means, the expertise, and the will to shape other kinds of public policy – the kinds that shape our communities, governance, and daily lives.

Episode 1: The Evolution of Philanthropy

When the Greek titan Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give it to the struggling human race, Zeus accused him of being a “philanthropos tropos” – a being who loves humans.