Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting to know Kris Kewitsch!

We're excited to welcome our new Executive Director, Kris Kewitsch, who comes to the Charities Review Council from a long background in directing giving for Target and Piper Jaffray foundations. So who is the Council's new leader? Get to know Kris and what she thinks about Minnesota's philanthropic pulse, her favorite part of accountability, and, most importantly, she shares a photo of her adorable pooch.
  1. What about the Charities Review Council inspired you to become its next Executive Director?
    Through my previous roles in foundation giving, I developed a strong belief in the integrity and depth of work with nonprofits carried out by the Charities Review Council. I often leveraged the Council’s resources to be more effective not only in my own work, but also as an individual giver. I’m excited to now be part of the team!
  2. Minnesota has a pretty engaged philanthropic sector, what do you think contributes to this?
    Beyond Minnesota’s long history of generous giving by business leaders, there’s a certain legacy of support that’s part of the core fabric of those who live, work, and give in Minnesota—it’s the essence of who we are.
  3. A fun activity you’re most likely to be seen doing on the weekend?
    Spending time with my family and walking my dog Tyson. Isn’t he cute?
  4. Do you have a favorite Accountability Standard yet J?
    While I couldn’t pick just one Standard, I do have a soft spot in my heart for a specific area of accountability: Public Disclosure. I believe in the value and importance of nonprofits being open and transparent with their information—this is at the heart of the contract between donors and nonprofits.
  5. Anything you’re most looking forward to in your first year as a new executive director?
    The Charities Review Council is a Minnesota best kept secret and it’s time to for that to change. I’m looking forward to broadening our work and reputation nationally about our services to donors and nonprofits.
  6. If you could live inside a TV show or movie forever what would it be?
    The upstairs of Downton Abbey.

Friday, July 13, 2012

More than Writing a Check: Making Philanthropy Fun

Summer is the ideal time to make charitable giving fun through fundraising activities that will motivate you to get outside. If you are looking for ways to enjoy the warm weather and support your favorite organization, here are some ideas to help you make a difference.

In addition to raising funds for an organization, fundraising events help charities raise awareness for their cause. By getting involved through action, engaged donors, like you, can feel more meaning and connection to an organization.
There are some things to consider before you sign up for an organization’s bike-a-thon, car wash, or plan your own fundraising activity. First, you should research if that the organization has been reviewed by the Charities Review Council. You can visit our Charity Search to check and see if the organization has earned the Council’s Meets Standards seal (earned when an organization meets all 27 of the Council’s Accountability Standards). If the organization is on the Council’s list of Most Trustworthy Nonprofits, then you know the charity’s operations and policies meet the accepted standards for accountability and transparency.
If the charity hasn’t been reviewed by the Council, here’s a great list of questions you can ask the organization directly to get a better understanding of how they use contributions and evaluate the effectiveness of their work.
If you find a charity that you want to support, check out the events calendar for the organization for ways you can get involved through a fun activity. For example, the March of Dimes will hold a carnival to support the Needs For Our Pre-Me’s team on Saturday, July 14, at the Richard Walton Park in St. Paul. There will be music, games, and food for you to enjoy, as well as silent auctions and prizes.
Another creative approach to encourage philanthropy is to start a giving circle among your friends to raise a certain amount for an organization. Or, do you have stuff taking up needed space in your home? You can organize a yard sale to clear out the clutter and use the money raised for your favorite organization. To take advantage of the beautiful summer weather, you could host a water-themed party with slip n’ slides, kiddy pools, water balloon fights, etc. and then provide activities such as sale of snacks, raffle prizes, and games to raise funds for your favorite organization.
Hopefully you’re inspired to not only enjoy the remaining months of summer, but to also try making philanthropy fun!
By Bridget Deehr
Marketing and Communications Intern

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Building a Foundation for Social Change

On Tuesday June 19, the Charities Review Council held its Annual Forum—a yearly meeting dedicated to not only publicly reporting the activities and accomplishments of the organization, but to also give space and recognition to pivotal topics affecting our communities. This year, the Council structured the event around the idea of “Building a Foundation for Social Change” by inviting Luz Vega-Marquis, President and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation, to speak on the critical role capacity building and effective partnerships play in building a foundation for change.

The program also included awarding the annual “Community Leadership Award” to Greater Twin Cities United Way for continued support and encouragement for accountability and transparency in the nonprofit sector.

Before Ms. Vega-Marquis took the stage, there was a heartfelt recognition and standing ovation for the Council’s executive director, Rich Cowles, as this was the final Annual Forum before his end-of-June retirement after a 13-year tenure as the organization’s leader.

And, here is a summary of Luz Vega-Marquis’ keynote speech, written by the Charities Review Council’s Marketing and Communication’s Intern, Bridget Deehr:

Speaking to a room of over 300 influential people in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and business communities, Luz Vega-Marquis shared her outlook for better serving the impoverished people of our country.

As the keynote speaker at our 2012 Annual Forum, she addressed the growing problem of the treatment of poverty in our country.
“I have a hope that poor people have a place to get services where they feel encouraged and that they can participate and vote,” she said, “and that they are engaged in some way in changing the lives of others.”
With a staggering 49 million people living in poor conditions, it is very important to listen to those families in our communities and to keep the epidemic at the forefront, Vega-Marquis said. To ensure that poverty remains in national discussions, Marguerite Casey Foundation maintains a staff reporter to inform leaders of the ongoing struggles for low-income families.

As a pioneer in achieving societal change, Vega-Marquis recognizes the urgency in the issues that a poor family will endure, including having their voice heard. One of the ways that the Foundation strives to build bridges across issue, race, and geography is to improve relationships with other charitable initiatives and organizations. “The core of the strategy is adding the collective capacity,” she said. If we connect with other extensions, we will be able to assist the families more effectively.”

She has seen too many instances where someone has sought help and they are transferred between specialized networks, rather than given the assistance that they needed, she said. “These people aren’t just reeling from a hit that solely affects their housing choices. They are hit with everything coming down around them in one big swoop. Networks that specialize in housing, food, and job concerns must become that collective capacity to help that family,” she said.

Understanding the impact on the families and building an infrastructure are just some of the ways that organizations can better serve low-income families, Vega-Marquis said.
“We need to envision something grand,” she said. If we collect the political power of the poor, it will make these families proud to belong to something and build their participation levels in our society.
If you missed this year’s Annual Forum, no worries. The tech-savvy attendees were live-tweeting their hearts-out and you can see a stream of those conversations here: