Tag Archives: philanthropy

What can we learn from OTF giving history – Part 3

ACTION AREA

As promised in the previous posts 1 and 2, I now turn to Action Area and related variables, in the goal of understanding OTF strategy better. Just to remind you OTF action areas are as the following:
Active People, Connected People, Inspired People, Promising Young People,
Prosperous People, and Green People. Those areas supposedly organize grant application under sub-umbrellas, and allow better comparison between applications and grant outcomes.

The first analysis that came to mind was to compare areas (across years and types of grants) in respect to the Total awarded amount and monthly dollars. Interestingly enough, there are significant differences (F***) in both the total amount received and in monthly support, as the following:

The chart above clearly shows a tendency to support in higher amounts for Active People projects against all other types. It also seems, however, that the most funded areas in general are Green, Promising, and Prosperous. Inspired, Connected, and Active are somehow clustered together in the second priority.

Moving forward, I analyzed the connection between Action Area and Type of grant. Here, as well, differences are prevalent:

  • 40% of the Capital projects are in Active people area, and 24% are in Inspired.
  • Grow is more equal, but Promising Young get 25% of funding, seconded by Connected with 20%.
  • Seed has an indefinite preference for Connected (25%), and all other areas get varying amounts in the neighborhood of 13-18%, besides Active which gets only 9%.

Looking at Action Areas in general, focusing on type of funding, it seems that:

  • Active: 64% Capital, and 20% Seed
  • Connected: 49% Seed, and 28% Grow
  • Green: 53% Seed, 41% Grow
  • Inspired: 39% Capital, 36% Seed
  • Young: 45% Grow and 45% Seed
  • Prosperous: 45% Seed, 34% Grow

All in all, OTF strategy is certainly not equal in the pots of money across areas, and shows a clear tendency to prefer certain areas over others especially when it comes to specific types of funding. Those may be the results of specific tendencies in applications (i.e. Active applications tend to be focused on Capital requests rather than Seed; or Grow projects are more relevant in Young and Green). However, this analysis cannot account for those explanations, as OTF published only awarded grant data, and not full application requests.

GRANT RESULT*

Regardless of the Type of funding, I was very curious to check out the frequent/prevalent Grant Results. Those who are more frequent certainly fall under at least one of the following category (if not all): selection committee favourites, OTF team favourites, most frequent in requests, most frequent in agencies/organizations need, significant elements in projects growth, significant in sector-wide stability and growth, capture/promise change and opportunity. You may add more reasons as you wish, and I am happy to include them here for the benefit of my readers.

So, here are the top nine (afterwards come all 3% or less):

It is clear that the first and foremost concern is: social isolation. This result is significantly prevalent than others, and this simply means that if your project is connected to this result, it will be wise to choose it (use discretion and caution here, and choose it only if really connected to your project).
Second in line are: physical activities and culture/heritage. My thinking is that these two are highly connected to social inclusion in this way or another, so we can say safely, that an application about bringing people together whether if for sports, arts, crafts, event, festival, social program, get-together, etc. is definitely going to get significant and positive attention in your favour. If you look at the rest of the list, you will easily see other variations of physical activity, social inclusion, and you will see it narrows down to children and youth.

In this case, I can clearly say there is an evident pattern to prefer projects that are focused on Social Inclusion, Group Activities, and more specifically projects that target youth, children, and suggest programming around culture/heritage and sports. This is not to say that most of the money goes to these areas, but undoubtedly, those results are the most frequently funded ones.

This analysis also shows the preferred result for each top area:

  1. Connected: People who are isolated have connections in their community (n=301, %=35)
  2. Active: Infrastructure for unstructured and structured physical activities (n=205, %=34)
  3. Inspired: Arts, culture and heritage have appropriate spaces (n=180, %=21)
  4. Young: Children and youth who are facing barriers develop strong emotional and social skills (n=165, %=19)

*inluding Ontario150

Next, I analyzed the four top frequently funded areas, to see if funding dollars are also different. Strangely enough, there are real differences and trends in the total amount funded and monthly dollars.

Total highest $ go to Infrastructure (makes sense) and Children/youth (unclear why or how it’s so different than isolated people in general). Highest total monthly $ go to Infrastructure (makes sense) and another version of Infrastructure (makes sense). All in all, again, when you are making an application, if you include the social isolation component, you have significantly higher odds to win.


It should be noted that I looked into two other variables: Population and Age. However, majority of the grants were awarded for “general populations” without any certain age limit (children over 12 yrs and youth comprise of about 30% of total Age; people with disability 15% of total Population Served).

That’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed and learned. On my next post, I will wrap up the discussion and focus on major findings in this analysis in the goal of identifying better how OTF strategy works, and how you may improve you application in the next round.

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WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM OTF GIVING HISTORY? PART 2

In my previous post, I provided general information in respect to OTF grant strategy. This info sheds light on giving amounts, favorite grant types, long term strategy, and in general makes some order in thousands of raw data information. When trying to understand better how exactly the grants are divided geographically, I was dealing with technological challenges including pricey software and limited sharing capacity.

[long story short: started using Tableau, which is highly friendly however I could not share and was able to analyze on the first 3 letters on postal codes; then switched to PowerBI, which is significantly less friendly and shareable (although limited in time)].

All in all, I will present here maps that show giving dollars and postal codes, and clearly show where the money goes, and how much. Not surprisingly, population concentrations get more attention and funds (in general), but if you are interested in a specific location – those maps can give you highly effective visualization of the data. I was surprised to learn that maps can shape my understanding better than any other graphs that I dealt with so far; so even if you are experienced with data analysis for years, you may still be pleasantly surprised to be suddenly aware of the potential insights you enjoy while using in data mapping.

Back to business, the map below shows average giving per month based on the postal code.
The range is between $2,125 and $265,883 per month. Quite wide (I did not control for type of grant in this map). Due to technological constrains, I could not share the interactive map with you; so I captured the core, and left the rest of the province outside this image. However, we can easily see that GTA gets attention, and interestingly the periphery gets higher amounts (the dark blue on the right is K0K ($166k), and the semi-dark blue on the left are N0G ($87K) and N0H ($81K). The two small areas in the middle of the map are L4R in the north with $190K and L3Y in the middle with $178K.

Moving forward, I created an interactive map for total giving amount across the province. In this case, you can explore the area of interest and see how much in total was awarded per postal code.

Seed – $ per month

Diving into Seed grants over the years, it seems that there are actual differences between postal codes. At a general glance, the core of Toronto/York Region area does not get too much Seed if any, and the average dollars per months significantly vary. This raises the question whether organizations in this area are well established and therefore need less Seed funding, or maybe OTF strategy proiritizes other areas that are less central. I do not have an answer for this question (OTF do not publish unsuccessful application data), but you should take this into account if you are planing to apply for a Seed grant.

The map shows that the most funded is Toronto Biennial of Art (M6P) with over $35,000 per month. The least funded on a mothly basis is St. Vincent de Paul Society of Kingston (K7K) with just under $550 per month.
I cannot describe in words how exciting it is to play with the data over the map, but unfortunately I could not share it online.
Over-time analysis shows a trend of growth in average monthly funding: from $5400 per month in 2015/16 to $5550 per month in 2017/18.

(Average duration for Seed is 11 months).

On PowerBI it looks much less informative, and I could not find a better way to present the very same data. Anyways, here it is for you to interact with the data of interest.

Grow and Capital geographic distribution

Capital across the province (per month):

In general, again, it seems that the core of Toronto/York Region is less funded than other areas. This requires further investigation, as it is not explained by this data why the core is funded less than the secondary tier. Maybe additional variables such as populations and action areas will explain better.

Grow GTA (per month):

This map again raises more questions than answers. Why the core is not represented? Why there are areas that are heavily funded? Postal codes in the middle of the map: L0K, L0H, L0B, L4A, L7K (all around $18,000 per month); Toronto in the areas of M+.
No clear picture of funding strategy comes up from this map.

The only explanation I have now is that postal codes are more dense in more densely populated areas; and this may create a biased visual of funding distribution. However, this does not provide an answer to the question of monthly awards; and does not provide a good answer why over years some areas get zero attention.

At this stage, until I find a better solution, or I get positive feedback about PowerBI maps; I have no plans to produce interactive maps for Grow and Capital. Please write me if you think this is beneficial.

However, regardless of maps the below presents a summary of monthly dollars. In my opinion this is a good guide if you have future plans to apply.

Growth in monthly funding is prevalent and significant

When I tested Grow and Capital – growth in funding is clear.

Grow monthly avg. in 2015/16 – $10,500; 2018/19 – $11,900. (average duration is 33 months).

Capital monthly avg. in 2015/16 – $12,900; 2019/19 – $15,300. (average duration is 8.5 months).

In other words, the average grants you may want to apply for next round (assuming no significant changes in the process) are as the following:

Grow for three years, for about $400,000; or Capital for 8 months, for about $130,000. If judging from the theoretical amount you may get -Grow falls way behind the maximum of $750,000, and Capital obeys the defined boundaries of $150K.

By this I will end the blog post for maps. In the next posts I will focus on
Action Area, Grant Result, Demographics, and Funding Dollars.

Please feel free to share, comment, and contact me for insights and ideas.
Thank you for reading!

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What can we learn from OTF giving history? PART 1

Ontario Trillium Foundation recently released a history of grants awarded between 2015-2019. I have decided to take a look at the data, and extract major lessons about their giving, type of funding, action areas, geographic area, target populations and so forth.
The analysis is divided to several articles; to make it easier for reading. The beginning of this article series presents some basic descriptive stats, to provide a general picture about OTF funding. As we go on, I present interesting comparisons and cross-tabulations. To summarize, lessons to be learned and recommendations for future applications are discussed.

Related image
  1. Total number & type of grants

In general, 2503 grants were given in twelve cycles of applications, average number of grants approved per cycle is 209, with the range of 99-334 (lowest June 2016, and highest November 2015).

OTF reduced the amount of grants by ~15% in 2017/18 and 2018/19 rounds compared to 2015/16 and 2016/17 . Hence, less organizations are now grantees of OTF.

The major types of grants are (out of total grants): Seed (36%), Grow (26%), and Capital (25%). One cycle grants were: Ontario150 (8% 2016/17 only) and Provincial Impact (1% 2017/18 only). Collective Impact is present in all years, however comprises only 3% of total grants.
It seems that Seed is highly popular, and safe to assume that Collective Impact is significantly challenging for forming, applying, and actually get the funds.

Types of grants per year (not including Collective Impact, Ontario150 and Provincial Impact):

Grow and Seed grants are declining with time; however Capital is on the rise. Additionally, it seems that OTF tries to be consistent over time with core grants and open all of them every year.

2. Total grants for catchment areas

Not too surprisingly, for catchment areas, Toronto leads the chart, and right after come Halton-Peel, Simcoe-York, and Champlain (Ottawa). Provincial-wide grants take 6% of total grants.

Stay tuned for geographical analysis in respect to census data.

3. Frequent grantees (5 times or more)

Interestingly enough, 29 organizations made it to the top list of grantees. Tides Canada is significantly higher than all other organizations, seconded by Sketch Working Arts. Additional thirteen organizations received grants five times.
In case you were wondering how the rest of the distribution looks like, here are the numbers: 75% of total organizations that received 1-4 grants were awarded once; 17% – twice; 6% – three times; and 2% – 4 times.


4. Money, Money, Money

Average dollar amount per grant is $116,000. Seed grants get $55,000 on average; and Grow get $368,000.

When looking at trends over time, Seed keeps its boundaries of about $55,000; and Capital and Grow amounts are in steady growth, in 22% and 16% respectively, comparing 2015/16 and 2018/19.

If so, when considering to make an application for Seed, better to ask around $55,000; for Capital – ask for about $100,000; and for Grow you can aim high to $400,000 on average. Just a reminder, the official limits are $75,000 for Seed, $150,000 for Capital, and $750,000 for Grow.

When I correlated funds and number of months in Grow grants, surprising low correlation was found (r=.38**). An in-depth investigation reveals that the distribution is not normal, and skewed to the left, hence tend to focus on lower amounts regardless of duration.

If you pondered about the monthly support, here are some numbers:

  • average funding per month is $11,000 (st.dev. $5300, Median $9,400)
  • 25th quartile gets $6500 monthly; 50th gets $9,400, and 75th gets $14,700. Top decile gets $19,700-$23,500
  • Top three organizations:
    YMCA of Western Ontario (2016/17) ;
    Second Harvest (2016/17);
    Eabametoong First Nation (2016/17)

Stay tuned for descriptives of Action Area, Grant Result, Demographics; and  in-depth analysis for Action Area, Grant Result, Organization, and Funding Dollars.

Feel free to comment and suggest additional analyses.

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PRACTICE THE DOING GOOD

In the last few months, I enrolled coincidentally and luckily to two free online courses, given by Coursera‘s top professors. One of them was “Effective Altruism” by Dr. Peter Singer, and the other was “A life of happiness and fulfillment“, by Dr. Raj Raghunathan. Both courses, in this way or another, are dealing with important questions of meaning and significance, and discuss ways to improve what we are doing in our day-to-day life, in order to be better personalities.
I also, somehow, found myself watching with my kids the fabulous, amusing, and lovely movie by Julie Andrews, called “The sound of music“…

As a result of the three, I watched several interviews with Andrews after her voice loss; I bought Singer’s new book “The most good you can do“, and talked to friends about happiness and the ways we ruin our happiness by our own very hands (I still have a bunch of recommended reading to complete in the next 20 years…).
Then, I have discovered a link between all of the ideas, a shiny bright thought came into my mind. In fact, it is not that hard to do good, it is not that impossible to be happy even if we are not that achieving and successful in terms of what we think we should have been achieving so far.

The major point of Singer’s message is the willingness to do good with your money or time. It is not just giving your spare money or time, but doing it wisely and efficiently. Think about what you are planning to give, to whom, why to do it, and what evidence are exist in order to support your choice of giving. According to Singer, giving should be done by everyone who has something spare (time or money), and the leading principle is the choice of the best cause.

Andrew’s message, conveyed in many interviews and talks, is more than inspiring in my opinion. She repeatedly says she enjoys the most of her ability of giving joy and happiness to kids, families, and adults who watch her films and shows. She had a rule to sing only happy songs, never take the negative side, and commit to roles she felt may bring lots of fun and happiness to her audience. Even after the loss of her voice, due to a surgery failure, which was a complete shock to her and the rest of the world, she still found a way to do the best she knows, and started to write children’s books, with great messages of self-acceptance, and finding fun in each of every moment.

Last but not least is Raghunathan’s lessons for a happy life. He insist we can all find happiness in very simple ways, as long as we practice them. He counts several steps to follow (are described here very briefly). First, get rid of our need for superiority (what a burden it is, indeed!); Second, express gratitude to people who made our life better (if you think about it – there are numerous of them); Third, think and write what is happiness for us in a short sentence or very few words (for example: joy, abundance), and what makes us feel happy (for example: giving to others); Forth and trivial – eat, move, and sleep well. Fifth, give to others, as act of generosity. Sharing is caring, etc.; Sixth, and the most important – practice all of the above on a daily basis.

When combining the three inspiring, fascinating, engaging messages, the only question which comes to mind is “Ok. what do I do next?”
The answer is PRACTICE THE GOOD. Practice your thinking of effective giving, and do it. Practice your viewing and common mistakes of happiness, and focus on the bright sides. As a result, you will start to experience a great fulfilling and happy life, and eventually and hopefully these great positive feelings will last and enlighten yours and others’ life.

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4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Donate to Nonprofit Organizations

The world is complicated, there are so many causes to donate money to, and your spare time and / or money to donate are limited. The questions of how to give, to whom, and why, are getting an increasing attention due to the growing needs on the one hand, and a shrinking amount of donated money and time on the other hand.

Nevertheless, the issue of giving has not got enough thinking and discussion so far, in my opinion, although it is only reasonable to assume that ones will want to know what profit their money can generate. Even in terms of the not for profit sector, it is still true and plausible to expect high efficiency, effectiveness, and return on investment.

Therefore, I have developed a simple Four Questions Test in order to assist donors in decision making regarding donating their time or money.

Question # 1:
What does the organization do?
A clear answer is required here. Neither vision nor mission statement are needed here.
The very simple answer is what is done by the organization.
Want three clear examples? Here You Go.

Question # 2:
Is it the most  important cause you can donate to?
The answer to this question is a bit tricky, and requires framing an opinion by asking yourself what is your definition of the best cause(s) to give to. The basic assumption is that you want to help as many as you can, which means you want to make the best out of your investment. Think about it and develop your view. You may find This Inspiring Book helpful. Although the author claims that poverty alleviation should be number one priority for everyone of us, I still find this book very helpful in shaping your mind in regard to finding the cause that close to your preferences of helping others.

 

Philanthropy

Question # 3:
What are the organization’s overhead costs?
Not a fancy question to ask, but you deserve an answer. As a general rule, you may expect no more than 15% overhead costs. More than this percentage, or worse – no information in this regard raise a question mark. A big one. Bear in mind, your money is limited, and you want to generate the higher profit possible. Assuming that – it is your duty to do your research and find out if the overhead costs are within the range. (And a personal note, I do not believe in crazy fundraising costs either, whether they are conveniently calculated out of the overhead costs or not! 20% or more of fundraising costs seem unacceptable to me, because it basically says that you cut 20 cents out of each dollar you give. You can do better with you money for sure.)

Question # 4:
What is the Return on Investment?
This term has countless definitions, but only one bottom line – what is the percentage of the generated profit in the project? Clear answer is required here. How much your dollars worth within the project/organization?! The ratio between investment and its return is very easy to catch. You should ask and get this information from the organization/s you wish to support. Any ratio above 1:1.5 is considered good profit in my opinion, because it is basically reflects 150% profit, and this is a clear indicator of doing good with your money, and making it worth more. The same process you do with your for profit investments applies here as well. (And another personal note here… I do not buy excuses in this issue. Every organization has the duty to measure, evaluate, and research itself on an ongoing basis, and part of it, is getting to know the organization’s services/activities’ impact in terms of dollars.)

Now, take a pen and paper and answer the questions.
If you do not know the answers – research. Do it diligently, because you want the best profit out of your money.
If an organization you consider to support does not provide with the information – ask to get it.
If an organization does not have the information – reconsider your intentions. You will not know where the money goes, what is done, and what is your return, so better to think twice, and research better options within your fields of interest.

Ready to think?! Go ahead and do the best you can.

****
Some clarification notes (in response to many emails and comments I have received):

1. Every donor follow their heart. I am not trying to convince anyone to choose any cause which is not their focus of giving. Do what you think is right.

2. Overhead costs is not a synonym of salaries. It includes rent and other costs… and yes in many cases there are too high costs of fundraising. It seems unreasonable to me to spend only 60-50% of donors money on the mission (assuming this mission really happens). However, there are many cases such as a small organization, starting-up a new project, or increasing of fundraising effort in which higher costs are acceptable. I give you food for thoughts, and you do the math.

(….And by the way, let’s phrase it a bit differently please… assuming that it is impossible to have 15% overhead costs and only 30% or so is a relevant expectation, plus every organization that tells you they have less than 30% overhead simply “plays with the numbers”… just makes the problem worse!!! No one wants to show high overhead costs, right?! so if they say they have 40% fundraising costs (or overhead), you may derive the inevitable conclusion – they spend much more than this amount. So, where does donors money go?!)

3. Salaries – I am a big believer of decent salaries, and will never support anyone who thinks that the sector’s workers need to sacrifice themselves because they help others. BUT if you chose to help others do not find excuses why you deserve the largest car and a crazily high 6 figures salary. It is not fair for your donors, and it is not fair for your employees; and it is bad to our world to have people who think they are the only talented people to bless earth, and the world owe them back.

4. Reading the comments I have received proved me something I already new. I am a millennial.  This is it (:

5. Cyber-bullying, even with a fake cover of legitimate discussion, is disgusting and very harmful. Think twice before you shoot someone just because you disagree with them. (By the way the impression about your style of talking to others does not do good to you either… even if my ESL is not perfect, I bet you understand perfectly everything I write. I am also kinda sure my first language level is far better than the first language of many educated and smart commenters).

6. Very nice examples of organizations that use donor’s money efficiently (and there are many more, Find them and support them):
UNICEF
Plan Canada
United Way

7. A great article you may consider to read, and may change your way of thinking.

8. Do not forget why you are here – do good, do good, the your best to do good!

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