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High Impact Holidays: Bringing Relief to Vulnerable Families

November 17, 2011

It’s the week before Thanksgiving. For many, it marks the start of the holiday season and a time when donors consider making in-kind or monetary donations to food banks, soup kitchens and other nonprofits addressing hunger. Two recent examples in the news describe two very different approaches to addressing this issue:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported on how the state of New York has shifted funding for food services, causing losses for some organizations and gains for others, based on a 5-year evaluation by the Department of Health.
  • Newsworks highlighted a social venture of a hybrid supermarket-pantry funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with collaborative help from Philabundance, a regional leader in food access.

The ongoing state of the economy means that many households are struggling not just with hunger, but with health and housing issues as well. November also marks the anniversary of the release of our High Impact Philanthropy in the Downturn and our inaugural donor seminar which outlined evidence-based ways that donors can help vulnerable families in the US.

The need for donors – and the nonprofits they support – to understand how to achieve the biggest social impact bang for buck remains critical. This year, we co-hosted a screening of Saving Philanthropy, followed by a discussion on how nonprofits can manage to better outcomes. And a  recent article by Dan Kadlec in Time focused on how nonprofits are preparing to manage resources and provide services to vulnerable communities while operating in the recession. For many organizations and the populations they serve, potential struggles loom.

But Kadlec suggests that donor advised funds may provide some hope: According to Time, Fidelity Charitable and National Philanthropic Trust saw an increase in contributions to their assets this year and expect an increase in outflows to charities. That increase in available funding might offer welcome relief to nonprofits.  More importantly, when those funds go to high impact models, then the vulnerable families these nonprofits serve will experience the relief many so desperately need.

As individual donors, institutional funders, and nonprofits ramp up efforts –whether through philanthropy or direct service—to ease the burden on vulnerable families, our Center continues to navigate through the evidence in the field, from informed opinion of experts to academic research, in order to provide guidance to everyone operating in the ecosystem of social impact. We encourage you to contact us with any questions or feedback on our recommendations thus far.

Stay tuned for our upcoming weekly staff insights and holiday giving guidance.

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