July 2021 Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

By Stephen Sherman

SECF’s online Research Library is regularly updated with the latest reports relevant to Southern philanthropy. SECF members can browse over 400 research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

Below are some of the key findings and highlights of the newest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Director of Research and Data, at stephen@secf.org or (404) 524-0911.


Values Proposition: How and Why We Transformed Our Investment Model to Align Our Capital with Our Mission

Nathan Cummings Foundation (2021)

This report from the Nathan Cummings Foundation examines the organization's experience with aligning the full corpus of its $450 million endowment with its mission. The foundation accomplished this both by reallocating its investments and by reassessing its investment advisors and fund managers. Based on the foundation's success, this publication explores the potential for mission-aligned investing to enhance mission impact while continuing to meet financial goals. The report discusses key findings from the foundation's experience with mission investing and offers insights for other funders wishing to follow a similar path. Points of discussion include engaging an OCIO, developing measurement strategies, and investing in racial equity. Appendices include NCF's statement of values, its equity lens framework for investment advisors, and sample language for requesting diversity, equity, and inclusion data as part of a request for information from investment firms.


America's Health Conversion Foundations: A PtP Success Story

Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies (2021)

Prepared by Johns Hopkins University Professor Dr. Lester M. Salamon and Chuck Bell, a noted expert on health care conversions, this report examines the effectiveness of Philanthropication thru Privatization, or PtP, particularly in the case of health conversion or health legacy foundations in the United States. These foundations include those which were formed from the transformation of an assortment of U.S. nonprofit hospitals, health insurance providers, and health systems into for-profit institutions. The authors conducted an in-depth assessment of the operational and programmatic performance of four of the more than 240 U.S. health conversion foundations – the Colorado Health Foundation, the Kansas Health Foundation, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and Missouri Foundation for Health. As this report shows, while differing in origins and conversion processes, these four foundations have proven to be model institutions, operating with a high degree of transparency and accountability, effectively managing the resources placed under their control, and using them in highly effective and imaginative ways to improve the health and life chances of the people in the regions they serve. 


Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2020)

The American Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship conducted 47 listening sessions throughout 2019 to understand the perspectives of different citizens on engagement with the democratic process. Based on findings from this initiative, this final report discusses the need for renewed civic faith and offers a set of recommendations for building a fresh collective commitment to democratic citizenship, to American constitutional democracy, and to one another. The authors argue that improvement of our civic culture and of our institutions must go hand in hand. The report outlines six strategies and 31 detailed recommendations with an explanation of the theory of change behind each strategy. The authors assess the current crisis of democracy in the United States and offer a case for reinvention, ending with a call for action by various sectors.


Faith-Based Approaches Can Positively Impact COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts: Religious Identities and the Race Against the Virus

Public Religion Research Institute, Interfaith Youth Core (2021)

The PRRI–IFYC Religion and the Vaccine Survey examined the relationship between religious affiliation and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and reveals that faith-based approaches supporting vaccine uptake can influence members of key hesitant groups to get vaccinated and thus can be a vital tool for the public health community as it works to increase vaccination rates. Among its key findings, the study showed that the positive influence of faith-based approaches on vaccine uptake is particularly important among Protestant Christians, who have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy and refusal. The report further outlines faith-based approaches to promote vaccine acceptance, which may include a religious leader encouraging vaccination, a religious leader getting a vaccine, religious communities holding information forums, a religious congregation serving as a vaccination site, and religious communities providing vaccine appointment assistance.


Persevering Through Crisis: The State of Nonprofits

Center for Effective Philanthropy (2021)

This report presents findings from two different surveys of CEP's Grantee Voice panel, conducted in May 2020 and February 2021, to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nonprofits' finances and programs. Responses showed that while COVID-19 was having devastating impacts on nonprofits overall, the negative impacts were magnified for organizations that provided direct services and that served historically disadvantaged communities. In addition, nonprofits that relied on foundation funding experienced fewer negative impacts and more stable funding than those relying on earned revenue (such as performing arts organizations) or gifts from individual donors. Increased support from foundations, individual donors, and government (including PPP loans) were cited as helping nonprofits fare better than expected during 2020.


Stephen Sherman is SECF's director of research and data.


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