Lodestar, along with the Skoll, Kellogg and Rockefeller Foundations and Google.org, provided seed money to Acumen Fund to develop the PULSE platform, a portfolio management tool for the sector that allows individual social investors to track performance against targets on financial, operational, social and environmental metrics. Beyond providing a more effective means of tracking performance data, PULSE has helped small and growing businesses (“SGBs”) manage their business by identifying inefficiencies and reallocating resources to maximize impact.
Nonprofit volunteer placement organizations often lack adequate infrastructure to maximize effectiveness. Lodestar has made several strategic grants to build capacity in these organizations. Make-A-Difference, which through merger and name-change, is now HandsOn Greater Phoenix, a part of a national network which is a division of the Points of Light Institute, recruits and coordinates the placement of corporate leaders and other corporate employees as volunteers for a variety of Phoenix-area nonprofits. Lodestar provided general operating support and provided a grant to enable HandsOn to acquire proprietary volunteer coordination software. ($220,000) Lodestar has also provided the sole support for several volunteer center activities around Arizona, such as providing seed money to start a volunteer center in Pinal County and providing funds for a proposed satellite volunteer center in Pima County. ($20,000 / $8,400)
Recognizing that social entrepreneurs often lack the business acumen of their for-profit business peers and that successful business professionals are often frustrated with traditional philanthropic options, Ashoka, the largest association of social entrepreneurs in the world, created the Ashoka Support Network (ASN). ASN matches Ashoka Fellows in small-group partnerships with successful small and medium-sized business entrepreneurs to engage a new generation of businesspeople in philanthropy, to leverage resources from the business community for social entrepreneurship, and to support the Fellows in a sustainable, mutually beneficial and systematic manner. Lodestar funds supported fine-tuning of the ASN model, testing it in Europe and then scaling the initiative globally.
Recognizing that organ donation is perhaps the ultimate philanthropic gift, Lodestar provided the lead grant to the Arizona Kidney Foundation to produce a video promoting organ donation by addressing common myths and concerns about the subject. The video was shown on television and distributed nationally.
For countries without a tradition of philanthropy, empowering young people to effect positive social change in their communities is a challenge. A multi-donor demonstration project in the former Soviet Union country of Azerbaijan placed real-life opportunities for decision-making and resource allocation in the hands of young people throughout the country by: 1) training groups of young people to identify pressing local issues and community change agents, manage a grantmaking process, and evaluate their grants; 2) providing the funds for grants to be made by the youth groups; and 3) linking the participants to other youth fund networks around the world to share lessons learned and develop additional capacity. Lodestar joined with the Eurasia Foundation, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to fund the original project that later expanded into Armenia and Georgia.
The community volunteers who comprise nonprofit boards have few, if any, options for learning how to serve as board members. As a consequence, they may not be effective stewards of either the public trust or the organization they represent. Lodestar supported a board-training workshop for board members and their executive directors to educate both staff and volunteers about the duties and responsibilities of board service.
Youth generally lack the skills and desire to take positive social action in their communities. The Making Changemakers program of Pravah, an Indian nonprofit, designed and implemented a school-based curriculum enabling Indian youth (ages 12-16) to become informed and proactive citizens. Over the course of four years of Lodestar funding, the program evolved from working directly with students to preparing teachers to administer the program, thereby broadening the reach of the program and creating an opportunity for sustainability. An additional technical support grant from Lodestar enabled Pravah to engage a professional fundraiser to support sustainability efforts. Lodestar partnered with the Tata Foundation of India in funding all of Pravah's activities.
Because many donors are not aware of the nonprofits operating in their community and nonprofits do not have adequate resources to promote their activities to the public, the Arizona Community Foundation (ACF) created a virtual online marketplace for grantors and grantees, accompanied by a generic online grant application, to facilitate grantmaking. Lodestar provided one of the lead grants to develop the system software, which enabled nonprofits to: 1) post organizational information on a website for viewing by funders; and 2) apply for grants using the common grant application. ACF subsequently sold the system to a for-profit entity that is marketing the product nationally.
Foundation professionals have relatively few opportunities to discuss with each other their accumulated experience and expertise. The Senior Fellows Network program of The Synergos Institute identifies talented foundation leaders from vanguard philanthropic institutions worldwide and links them to a global learning and service network, with the goal of strengthening foundations in the developing world. Fellows serve as peer consultants to other foundations around the world; their work produces knowledge on trends and innovative models, which Synergos distributes to a wide audience. A Lodestar grant, which helped underwrite an annual meeting of the Senior Fellows, also supported the development of a marketing plan to promote the Senior Fellows Network program to the foundation community.
Lodestar, Cox Communications and Clear Channel Communications joined forces in an effort to enlist more male “Big Brothers” to mentor young boys. During the fall football season in 2006 and 2007, the three entities underwrote an intensive TV and radio ad campaign promoting the "Big Brothers" concept, which increased the number of male inquiries to the organization. Beyond that, Lodestar also supported "Big Brothers" in other aspects of their organization.
Arizona State University (ASU) partnered with VolunteerMatch.org, a search engine and nationwide database of volunteer opportunities to create Volunteer Information and Referral Services (VIRS). As a result, prospective volunteers can access Phoenix-area volunteer opportunities through the VIRS site or through VolunteerMatch.org. A Lodestar Foundation grant supported the partnership between the two volunteer websites.
The Synergos Institute, with its expertise in expanding philanthropy around the world, wanted to create a culture of philanthropy in the former Soviet Union; the Eurasia Foundation has done extensive civic and economic development community work in the region. Pursuant to an invitation from Lodestar, Synergos and the Eurasia Foundation secured a planning grant that enabled both organizations to jointly assess the readiness of this region for philanthropic development. The grant led to a work plan, which can serve as the basis for an initial pilot project in the selected countries.
Volunteerism is promoted in the press primarily through occasional articles about outstanding volunteers and public service announcements that air at off-peak times. Recognizing that professionally designed advertising and prominent ad placement have the potential to increase volunteerism in a community, Lodestar entered into amedia collaboration to promote volunteerism. Lodestar and The Phoenix Business Journal co-sponsored a two-year print ad campaign in which the recipients of a high-profile local "unsung hero" volunteer award, the Hon Kachina Award, were profiled and readers were urged to contact various volunteer placement nonprofits; the nonprofits tracked responses, and results showed a spike in the number of calls received by the nonprofits after each ad ran. Lodestar also supported other aspects of the Hon Kachina awards.
Disconnected neighbors and a lack of community participation characterize many American neighborhoods. Lodestar awarded several capacity-building grants to National Neighborhood Day, an organization promoting an annual day of celebration – the third Sunday of September – in municipalities around the country to bring neighbors, government agencies and local nonprofits together to build community spirit in an effort to increase civic action and responsibility.