Take Comfort in the Data


A Conversation Between Cynthia M. Adams, Founder and CEO, and Ellen C. Mowrer, President and COO, GrantStation

We are living in troubled times, and the constant barrage of hyperbolic headlines from all sources of media can feel like an attack on your organization’s mission, your values, and your peace of mind.

I (Ellen) live in Lancaster, PA, a town that takes in 20 times more refugees per capita than the rest of the U.S. thanks to the good works of CWS Lancaster. Signs like this one (on our house) are the norm in Lancaster City:


Yet I can also understand the concerns of my Texan nephew, an Army MP who is a staunch “borderist.” With such polarized attitudes (like in my family), it is easy to see the bigger picture painted with a brush dipped in low-level anxiety about the current and future state of our world, our local community, our nonprofit organizations, and the chances of successful grantseeking.

All of our news sources – TV, radio, the Internet - lead off with headlines that can make you cringe. However, I (Cindy) receive a morning briefing in my inbox from the New York Times and it always has a section called “The Week in Good News,” which helps me continue to see the positive side of what is happening in our world. The other information that helps ground me in the “good” that is happening right here, right now is the work being done via philanthropy. I take comfort in the headlines and the data that normally just appear in media dedicated to the nonprofit sector.

We’d like to share a bit of this encouraging information and data with you in the hopes that it will help balance the barrage of negative input.

  • According to Giving USA, Americans gave over $410 billion to charity in 2017, crossing the $400 billion mark for the first time.
  • Extremely wealthy individuals are serious about philanthropy, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s recent $2 billion philanthropic effort aimed at helping homeless families and starting preschools in low-income communities.
  • Since early 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Urban Institute, has been engaged in studying poverty issues in the U.S. Given this legwork and the inescapable link between poverty and educational outcomes, the Gates Foundation is devoting over $150 million to help Americans break free from poverty, marking the first nationwide effort by the country’s largest philanthropy to address economic hardship in the U.S.
  • According to the 2018 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth® survey, which is an annual query of the attitudes, goals, and behaviors of high-net-worth individuals in the U.S., 84% cite giving back to people less fortunate as an important goal.
  • As per NP Source, corporate philanthropy grew by 8% to $20.77 billion, representing 5% of all donations. NP Source also found that approximately 63 million Americans — 25% of the adult population — volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • And at GrantStation.com, the results of the State of Grantseeking Survey and Reports reflect the availability of grant funding for most nonprofit organizations.

And if these statistics don’t help lighten the load, consider how some of our largest corporations are stepping up to the plate, actively reflecting our social conscience. I’m specifically referring to NIKE and their recent ad campaign hiring the former N.F.L. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick to represent their products. As you may remember, Kaepernick became a national figure in 2016 when he chose to kneel rather than stand during the national anthem as a form of protest against racial injustice in the U.S. This behavior, of course, captured national attention and launched a dialogue around this social justice issue. Kaepernick actively supported a group called the Black Youth Project (BYP100), an activist, member-based organization of Black young people dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.

And though this type of news doesn’t capture the headlines day after day, we do occasionally see articles like one in the Inspired Economist in late 2016 highlighting the top ten social justice groups working in the U.S. Some of these groups we all know quite well, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Organization of Women, but others such as the Black Youth Project and the Transgender Law Center may not be quite as familiar.

Combining positive data with positive headlines tells us that there are good people, organizations, businesses, and philanthropists actively working to improve our world and our communities.

So when the noise gets too loud for you, take a negativity break to review these statistics and consider the amazingly powerful work being done by this informal collaborative effort between the public and private sectors in our country.