A Degree, A Job…or a Refund?


August 24, 2016; Time, “Money”

As the school year begins and more than two million new students launch their college educations, a few question whether the time, effort, and expense will pay off. How should graduates and their families measure the value of their undergraduate education? What if, instead, there was a guarantee that they would complete their education in four years, or attain employment in their chosen field after graduation?

Many students and their families spend more money on annual college tuition than others make in a year. The average college tuition and fees for the 2015-6 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. As tuition continues to rise, so doesaverage student debt, reaching $26,600 for students earning only their bachelor’s degree. Overall, students across the country hold $1.2 trillion in college loans, and 17 percent of them are behind in their payments. The NPQ nonprofit newswire reported recently on the student loan debt issue, noting that debt for recent graduates is often highest at institutions with relatively modest tuition costs.

At many schools, students struggle to enroll in the classes required for graduation, leading to only 19 percent graduating from public, four-year universities on time. Students who complete their degree in four years naturally borrow less than those graduating in five years or more. Additionally, students who obtain meaningful employment are less likely to fall behind than those who do not.

Whether and where to receive a college education is a complex, costly, and risky decision, similar to the decision to purchase an expensive product or service. Consumers are often protected by “lemon laws” if a product does not live up to expectations, but students who seek college degrees must pay back their loans whether they graduate or not. What if students had guaranteed access to these courses? What if employment in a student’s chosen field was guaranteed upon graduation?

A growing number of public, nonprofit, and for-profit colleges are offering students on-time graduation guarantees. For example, four years ago, the State University of New York at Buffalo developed “Finish in 4.” Incoming freshmen sign a pledge to complete a full load of classes each semester, meet with an advisor annually, and declare a major by their junior year. If they live up to their commitments but still fail to complete their studies within four years, tuition after the fourth year is free until they graduate.

Other colleges are offering employment guarantees for graduating students. Adrian College, a Methodist-related private college in Michigan, created AdrianPlus, a guarantee that students will earn an annual income of a minimum of $37,000 after graduation. If students do not attain such employment, the college will reimburse all or part of students’ loan payments.

Udacity, a for-profit online “nanodegree” program in computer coding, offers a slightly different approach. The school guarantees students employment within six months of graduation or a complete refund of their tuition. Davenport University, another private nonprofit institution in Michigan, offers a similar guarantee of full-time employment in a student’s chosen field. Students unable to attain employment receive three semesters of additional coursework to supplement their degrees at no additional tuition charge.

In the past, colleges and universities have fought the connection between degrees and employment, saying they were not trade schools. It is exciting to see that fallacy begin to dissipate.—Gayle Nelson


Original cite:  https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/09/01/a-degree-a-jobor-a-refund/


Athletes Crowdfunding Success in Rio


August 6, 2016; Mother Jones

More than 550 American athletes are competing in this summer’s Olympic Games. Another 250 will compete in the Paralympic Games in September. For many, particularly those competing in lesser-known sports, the battle to fund training and travel to the Games almost overshadows the competition itself.

Gregory Brigman’s passion for soccer began as a child. He suffered from cerebral palsy, and after years of wearing a leg brace, surgery, and physical therapy, he eventually played for UNC Charlotte. After graduating, he worked as an engineer at a local civil engineering firm. In March of this past year, he became a member of the U.S. Paralympic team. Realizing he could not successfully train and work, he left his job and began training full-time.

Fortunately, the U.S. Soccer Federation funds the majority of his expenses, but he quickly realized that a small amount of living expenses for himself and his family were not covered. He turned to GoFundMe in late July. He’s asking for $6,000, and is nearly halfway to his goal after one month.

Gregory is part of a growing list of athletes turning to crowdfunding sites for help in funding their training and travel to Rio. GoFundMe is the most popular and has catered to Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The site has a single landing page for athletes’ campaigns, and by the month before the games, it had connected almost 4,000 donors to ninety campaigns, raising more than $400,000.

Among the other crowdfunding sites supporting Olympic and Paralympic athletes,RallyMe serves as the official campaign site for the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Cycling, and U.S. Bobsled teams. RallyMe donors often receive a small thank-you gift, such as a mention on the team’s social media, in exchange for their participation in the rally or fundraising campaign.

American athletes are creating these crowdfunding campaigns because, unlike many other countries, the U.S. Olympic team is not government-supported. The U.S. Olympic Committee is a nonprofit organization and solely represents athletes competing in the Olympic and Paralympic games. It depends on the generosity of individuals and corporations to support team facilities, send athletes to competitions, and compensate its staff. American athletes are not the only ones not supported by government funding;Australian athletes are also heavily dependent on crowdfunding.

Successful crowdfunding campaigns share elements of other successful fundraising campaigns. Athletes need a compelling story. Strong relationships with fans, including a large number following active social media campaigns, are also essential. These efforts cannot be turned on every four years but take years to build and considerable efforts to maintain.—Gayle Nelson

Original cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/08/12/athletes-crowdfunding-success-rio/

WNBA Players Stand Up in the Face of Fines


June 23, 2016; NBC Sports

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, more and more African American athletes are participating and showing their support. NBA players are among the loudest, and their WNBA sisters recently strengthened their refrain.

Last week, the WNBA fined three teams—the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and Indiana Fever—for altering their uniforms. The players wore black T-shirts during warm-ups with references to the shooting of African American men and police officers. WNBA officials fined each team $5,000 and each player $500. (Many fans are used to professional sports members being fined. In most cases, the fines amount to a slap on the wrist, but since WNBA players’ salaries top out at $107,000, fining a player $500 is a much harder slap.)

After the fines were imposed, Liberty and Fever players boycotted their required post-game news conference and instead held their own. During their conference, players stated they would only answer questions related to Black Lives Matter.

The fines were imposed weeks after the WNBA organized activities in support of the Orlando community after the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. In those instances, six teams wore warm-up shirts reading “#ORLANDO UNITED” under a rainbow-colored heart. The WNBA and its players also organized fundraising activities and blood drives.

In the face of controversy and standoff, the WNBA rescinded the fines. President Lisa Borders tweeted:

Appreciate our players expressing themselves on matters important to them. Rescinding imposed fines to show them even more support.

— WNBAPrez (@WNBAPrez) July 23, 2016

More and more players are using the sports arena to voice political outrage. They follow in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. According to a recent article in Sports Illustrated, NBA players’ voices have been by far the loudest. For example, last year, after the death of Eric Garner, many NBA players, including LeBron James and Derrick Rose, wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warm-ups. They were not fined.

One of the main reasons why NBA players have used their pulpit to show their support may be their personal experiences and connections to the communities of the slain African American men. Seventy-seven percent of NBA players are black, a much higher percentage than in any other professional sport. (67 percent of NFL players are African American, and only 8.3 percent of Major League Baseball players.) Clearly, in the WNBA, where 67 percent of players are African American, these feelings are shared.

The NBA itself has not stepped away from using its strength and voicing its support for political issues, either. Last week, leadership pulled the 2017 all-star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, in response to recent legislation prohibiting trans persons from using the bathroom of their gender identity.

Although the fines were rescinded, the WNBA’s decision to fine their players for actions tolerated and perhaps supported by NBA players exposes much larger cultural attitudes around the role of women and their right to show their support of their beliefs and communities.—Gayle Nelson

Original cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/07/26/wnba-players-stand-face-fines/

Why Highways Are the Center of America’s Protests


July 13, 2016; Washington Post

“If you can find a way to jam up a highway—literally have the city have a heart attack, blocking an artery—it causes people to stand up and pay attention. Highways still perform their historic role from a half-century ago. They help people move very easily across these elaborately segregated landscapes.”

—Nathan Connolly, historian, Johns Hopkins University

Writing for the Washington Post, Emily Badger reminds us why highways and our transportation systems in general figure so prominently in BLM protests. Across the country, thousands of protesters connected to the Black Lives Matter movement marched on highways and bridges. In the last month, protesters blocked highways in Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Chicago. These connected images remind us of prior moments in the struggle for racial justice. Badger writes:

Block a highway, and you upend the economic life of a city, as well as the spatial logic that has long allowed people to pass through them without encountering their poverty or problems. Block a highway, and you command a lot more attention than would a rally outside a church or city hall—from traffic helicopters, immobile commuters, alarmed officials.

Protesting on main transportation routes is not new. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s used roads and bridges as well. For example, protesters in the march in Selma used the Edmund Pettus Bridge to travel to Montgomery. These moments are meant to interrupt the status quo—which, let’s face it, has been inadequately protecting the rights of those whom the protestors represent.

“When people disrupt highways and streets, yes, it is about disrupting business as usual,” said Charlene Carruthers, the national director of Black Youth Project 100. “It’s also about giving a visual that folks are willing to put their bodies on the line to create the kind of world we want to live in.”

On July 9th, hundreds protesting the death of Philando Castile started at the Minnesota governor’s mansion and continued onto Interstate 94, blocking the entire highway. Castile, an African American man, was killed on July 6th after his car was pulled over because it had a broken taillight. Through the use of Facebook’s live recording feature, his death captured the attention of millions.

I-94 is an interstate highway built in the 1950s that stretches from Montana to the Great Lakes region. Like all interstate highways, the federal government provides most of the resources used to build and maintain it. Much of the area now covered by the highway was once home to thriving African American communities.

A recent study by the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University identified more than 1,400 Black Lives Matter protests in nearly 300 U.S. and international cities from November 2014 through May 2015. In at least fifty percent, the march shut down highways, bridges, or other transportation infrastructure.

“We systematically show that the political protest today is now almost totally focused on transportation systems, whether it’s a road, a bridge, in some cases a tunnel—rather than buildings,” said Mitchell Moss, the director of the Center and one of the authors of the study.

Today, marches on I-94 and other American highways are symbolic. First, the disruption of the flow of people and commerce is hard to ignore. Second, they connect the protests to the death, which took place during a traffic stop. Third, it reminds society of thethousands of African Americans who were displaced to build these huge byways at taxpayer expense.

America’s history of devastating African-American communities to build highways wasthe subject of two speeches this March by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. During the first twenty years of highway development, 475,000 families—over a million people—lost their homes, many of them poor and black. Foxx, an African American,spoke of his home community in Charlotte, which was ripped apart by major highways.

Many cities are coming to terms with this injustice and reintegrating these communities and the city as a whole through the building of new bridges and walking paths. However, the use of highways and other transportation routes by protesters to “stop time” and have us reflect upon unseen but impenetrable barriers is unlikely to stop anytime soon.—Gayle Nelson

Original post cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/07/21/highways-center-americas-protests/

Health Conversion Foundations: How to Make Them Relevant


June 2, 2016; Becker’s Hospital Review

Experts estimate there are about 400 foundations across the U.S. created due to the consolidation or conversion of a nonprofit hospital or health system into a for-profit. These foundations, known as legacy or health conversion foundations, maintain missions similar to their source organization: to support the health of the community the organization once served. In this age of limited government funds and great need, returning these resources in an effective and efficient method is essential.

Health organization conversions began in the 1980s as for-profit health corporations expanded their market by purchasing nonprofit hospitals, often associated with religious denominations. In the 1990s, this trend continued as Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in California and other states were transformed into for-profit entities.

In the 2000s, hospitals, healthcare systems, and health plans grew even larger, serving increasing geographic areas. (The Nonprofit Quarterly has written extensively on thedeath of the rural health organizations.) At the same time, hospital systems located in strong urban and suburban markets tend to be conversion targets. Other characteristics of converted health organizations are: small or medium in size, located in the South, and not or only rarely connected to a medical school or other teaching institution.

In 2010, the IRS identified 306 conversion foundations with assets of $26.2 billion. In the six years since then, the number of organizations in the healthcare industry has continued to decrease and conversions continued as hospitals and health care systems’ revenue sources shifted due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For example, in 2012 alone105 hospitals were acquired. Although there are no comprehensive reports for this period, experts estimate an additional one hundred legacy foundations were formed.

Similar to a community foundation, these legacy foundations are connected to specific places or geographic areas. The assets held by health conversion foundations range from less than $10 million to more than $3 billion. The larger organizations often make annual grants of $5 million or more and include some of the country’s most influential health supporters such as the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, and the Colorado Health Foundation.

Due to the size of these foundations and the vast needs of the communities they serve, it is not surprising many conversion foundation leaders feel immense pressure. One expert,Wayne Luke, managing partner of the nonprofit practice at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, provides advice that can be broadened to any new foundation. First, develop a well-thought-out plan before beginning grant distribution. Second, enlarge the mission beyond health to include social determinants such as education, housing, economic development, and access to healthy foods. (We would add transportation to this list, as it is often mentioned as a barrier to health care in nonprofit hospitals’ community health needs assessments, or CHNAs.) Third, since new legacy foundation boards and staff often contain leaders from the source health care organization, foundations should promptly broaden leadership to increase credibility and organization knowledge. Fourth, build collaborations across the community to expand impact and outcomes.

It is clear the healthcare industry will continue to shift as new healthcare laws and regulations take effect. Communities depend on leaders of conversion foundations to develop strong partnerships and effectively distribute the essential resources they are responsible for.—Gayle Nelson


Original Cite: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/06/07/health-conversion-foundations-how-to-make-them-relevant/

Nonprofits Respond to Connection between PTSD and Intimate Partner Violence


April 27, 2016; NPR, “Shots”

Veterans who have experienced combat are over six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and over four times more likely to abuse their spouse or partner compared with other men. Since the violence stems from a source that differs from other intimate partner violence situations, the warning signs and circumstances surrounding the abuse differ as well.

As the number of veterans returning home from multiple tours of war has grown, nonprofit organizations serving them have developed. But a gap persists when it comes to the development of programs geared to the needs of their partners and spouses who experience domestic violence.

Author Stacy Bannerman called a hotline serving military families after her husband, a former national guardsman who recently returned from his second tour of duty, abused her. Stacy’s husband experienced trauma during his tour in Iraq and developed PTSD. During their eleven-year marriage, Stacy’s husband had never before acted this way. What she also did not expect was the hotline operator’s reaction. The operator began to cry; as she explained, she had experienced so many similar phone calls.

Although many veterans suffering from PTSD are not violent, growing research suggests vets with PTSD are three times more likely to carry out intimate partner violence, according to Dr. Casey Taft, a head researcher with the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are also two to three times more likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse and unemployment. Eighty-one percent of vets suffering from depression and PTSD committed at least one violent act against their spouse or partner within the last year.

Violence committed by combat veterans often has its own distinguishing pattern that varies significantly from other intimate partner violence. Instead of the power-and-control cycle of other abusive relationships, veteran interpersonal violence tends to involve only one or two “extremely violent and frightening episodes that quickly precipitate treatment seeking.”

Families seeking treatment face multiple challenges. One of the most prominent is that the services the families depend on are focused on the individual needs of the veterans, not their families. Additionally, many nonprofits serving vets’ families often ignore intimate partner violence, and organizations serving intimate partner violence survivors do not have the expertise to serve veterans’ families.

One organization with a program created by vets for vets is the Domestic Abuse Project’s (DAP) Change Step program. Change Step integrated the military culture and language into the proven mainstream curriculum. It addresses the specific issues combat vets experience, including multiple deployments and PTSD.

Spouses and partners seeking to leave abusive vets also face barriers. Often, they are caregivers; the family receives income from the VA for their services, and once they leave, this income stream disappears. Additionally, many vets would be unfavorably discharged and lose their benefits if the abuse were reported.

Stacy has a long history of supporting other military families. She is the author of When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind(2006). Her newest book, Homefront 911, describes how war destroys military families. She fought for the Military Family Leave Act of 2009 and received the Patriotic Employer Award and the Above & Beyond Award from the Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve.

Bannerman is currently fighting for introduction of the Kristy Huddleston Act in Congress. The Act is named after Stacy’s friend and fellow military wife. Kristy was a nurse and worked for the VA before she was murdered by her husband, a U.S. Marine combat vet who served three tours of duty in 2012. The proposed legislation, if a sponsor can be found to introduce it and it is subsequently passed by Congress, would provide financial support to military wives and their children when a service-member is found guilty of domestic abuse.—Gayle Nelson