|August 30, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Interview Series|
Jake Milofsky, a native of Squirrel Hill, is the Tree Care and Restoration Coordinator at Tree Pittsburgh, a non-profit dedicated to growing and protecting the City’s urban forest. Since 2011, he has worked with community, City, and industry partners to facilitate tree care activities with volunteers throughout Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Jake also provides technical support for communities interested in restoring the health and sustainability of their local green spaces.
Years in the Pittsburgh area? 22 total (age 3-16, 21-27, 29-32)
What was your first job? My first full-time job after college was with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, where I worked as a Field Ecologist for about three years before leaving for graduate school.
How were you drawn to nonprofit work? As my career goals were coming into focus, I knew I wanted to work outdoors but I also wanted to do work with a social component like planning or community organizing. By doing environmental fieldwork in the non-profit sector, I found the social component I was looking for by working with community volunteers to do the outdoor work I enjoy.
What is the first thing you do each day? After turning off my alarm every morning, I like to open up my Google News app. Not only does the light help my eyes adjust, but I have plenty of good conversation fodder throughout the day.
What keeps you motivated? The volunteers I work with keep me motivated most of all. We work with close to a thousand volunteers each year, and it’s extremely rare for any of them to show up with a bad attitude. Even if I’m tired or a little off at the beginning of an event, I’m always in a good mood and energized afterward.
I’ve worked with some incredibly dedicated individuals who repeatedly humble me with the energy they bring to these voluntary activities they are passionate about. I’m lucky to be a part of it, and recognizing that keeps me motivated to do a good job.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? “Seek out mentors, and spend time with them”
What are you reading? Right now I’m reading The Millionaire Next Door. It’s about how the media portrays wealthy people as driving flashy cars and wearing fancy clothes, when in reality, many of the people who are actually wealthy in this country live very modest lifestyles, which is why they’re wealthy! Also, many people who lead flashy lifestyles may have high incomes, but very little wealth. I don’t have any illusions about becoming extremely wealthy, but the book is a good reminder to live at or below your means, and a welcome counterweight to the influence of our consumer society.
What is your go-to time-saving/productivity hack? Put it on the calendar. In my world, if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist and it probably won’t ever happen.
What major issue or trend is currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector? The need for population diversity in trees is big in urban forestry right now. Diseases, insects, and the prediction of continued warming temperatures mean we need to think ahead and create landscapes that are resilient. If we do a good job, the urban forest should be able to survive these environmental challenges and continue to provide us with its many benefits. To create these landscapes, however, will take education and continued advocacy on the part of those who share this understanding.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015? With close to 15,000 new trees planted on streets and in parks throughout Pittsburgh, it is very important to keep them pruned on a set cycle. This ensures they fit into their surroundings and don’t get in the way of pedestrians or vehicles. Our pruning goal for 2015 is 2,500 trees. So far this year our staff and volunteers have pruned just over 2,100 trees, so I think we’ll get there.
What is the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh? The best thing about the non-profit sector in Pittsburgh is the feeling of community and willingness to partner between organizations. One may think that competition for funding or other resources could cause conflict, but instead I see example after example of working together to make projects more effective.
What does Tree Pittsburgh have coming up? Tree Pittsburgh will be hosting our fundraiser, Arbor Aid, on Saturday, September 26. It will be at the site of our new Heritage Tree Nursery on the Allegheny River in Upper Lawrenceville. It’s a great location and sure to be a good time!
|August 21, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Education, Research|
As students ready themselves to return to their classrooms, a report from the RAND Corporation looks past test scores to the issue of Pennsylvania’s student achievement gap – one of the largest in the country. Although data from 2013 Pennsylvania standardized tests ranks the Commonwealth among the top ten states in student performance (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)) RAND found sizable achievement gaps according to race/ethnicity, economic status, parent education, and school district.
Some study findings:
- An achievement gap by race/ethnicity: The proportion of white students achieving proficiency or above in reading and math was 24 to 38 percent larger than African-American and Latino students.
- An achievement gap by economic status: Students from lower economic statuses had lower proficiency scores, and were estimated to be an average of two or three years behind their peers from higher economic statuses.
- An achievement gap by district: After removing the highest and lowest performing school districts, RAND found performance gaps between districts similar those identified in the race/ethnicity and economic analyses. Low performing school districts were identified in both urban and rural areas.
The report, The Economic Impact of Achievement Gaps in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools by Lynne Karoly, also compares the achievement of Pennsylvania students both nationally and globally, and examines the impact that gaps in academic performance may have on Pennsylvania’s economy. The full report is available at the RAND website.
Report Citation: Karoly, Lynn A.. The Economic Impact of Achievement Gaps in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1159.
|July 29, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Philanthropy, Research|
A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service suggests that grants to rural-based organizations are on the decline. The report, Foundation Grants to Rural Areas from 2005 to 2010: Trends and Patterns by John Pender, examined data on grants from the Foundation Center (of at least $10,000 awarded by the largest private and community U.S. foundations between 2005-2010), the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the Census Bureau, and USDA’s Economic Research Service to identify patterns grant distribution to rural communities in the United States.
Although 19 percent of the country’s population is located in rural areas, Pender concludes that grant funding “to rural-based organizations accounted for 5.5 percent of the real value of domestic grants by large foundations during 2005 to 2010, with a slight downward trend (based on Foundation Center data on grants by the largest 1,200 to 1,400 foundations).” A random sample of large foundations found that 6.3 percent of the total value of grants awarded in 2010 went to organizations in rural areas. Analysis using a sample of small foundations found the rural share of total grant value went from 7.5 percent in 2005 to 7 percent in 2010. During this time period the majority of grants to rural communities came from independent foundations.
Other findings from the study:
- The average dollar value per person of grants from large foundations to rural organizations was $88, versus $192 per person in metro counties.
- Counties with more college-educated residents (even when grants to universities and students were removed from the sample) received more grants per person.
- Rural organizations received more grants related to higher education, environment, and recreation/leisure than their urban counterparts.
Report Citation: Pender, John L. Foundation Grants to Rural Areas Frrom 2005 to 2010: Trends and Patterns, EIB-141, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June 2015.
Interview Series: Danielle Hardy, Community Donations Specialist for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania
|June 30, 2015||Posted by M. P. under Interview Series|
Danielle Hardy is the Community Donations Specialist for Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, where she focuses on donation acquisitions and community outreach events. She is also on the board of directors for Macedonia Family and Community Enrichment Center Inc., a faith-based non-profit community outreach of Macedonia Church in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA. As an organization, Macedonia FACE is committed to living out its mission to encourage the development of healthy families.
Years in the Pittsburgh area?
I was born and raised in the city of Pittsburgh. I left my beloved city to attend Virginia Tech but I couldn’t stay away long and returned right after graduation.
What was your first job?
I worked as an Assistant Event Coordinator at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens where I provided day-of coordination for weddings and other special events throughout the year.
How were you drawn to nonprofit work?
Since I was young I knew I wanted a career that bettered the lives of others. I always told myself that I would find the cure to cancer. Unfortunately, I am terrible at chemistry! But working in nonprofits has been a good second choice career path that has allowed me to do work that matters.
What is the first thing you do each day?
I don’t want to admit it, but if I’m being honest; the first thing I do each day is check my Facebook and Instagram. One day I’ll be able to say “meditation and yoga” … life goals!
What keeps you motivated?
I am motivated by my grandmother. She grew up in a time where women cleaned the house and cared for the children while their husbands worked and provided for the family. All she wanted was for me to have an education and a career I could be proud of. She didn’t get to see me graduate from college but she continues to motivate me. I strive to work hard and take advantage of every available opportunity because I know that’s what she would have wanted.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Think positively. You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind.
What are you reading?
“Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddle of Culture” by Marvin Harris. This very interesting book discusses the “bizarre” behaviors of different cultures and explains how these behaviors always stem from concrete social and economic conditions.
What are you listening to?
Kanye West’s debut album “The College Dropout,” Adele’s “19” and “21” albums, and Sam Smith “In the Lonely Hour.” These are all my favorite albums and I will love them forever!
What is your go-to time-saving/productivity hack?
I don’t rely on my memory. Every day when I get in the office I create a to-do list and I arrange my daily tasks by level of importance. This way, I get everything out of my head and onto paper and I can physically cross it off of the list when the task is completed.
What issue or trend is currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector?
The current trend of unidentified donation bins; particularly the bins that do not clearly state that they are a for-profit agency that sells the donations and the profit generated goes straight into their pockets. Donors assume their donations are going to support individuals in need in their community and too often, that is not the case.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?
Professional goal: To collect 200,000 pounds of donations by my one year anniversary with Goodwill. I am currently at 189,333 pounds!
Personal goal: To have a healthier diet and cook at home more often. I am currently at pizza!
What is the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?
The nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh is very collaborative. I’ve worked with several nonprofits and we are always looking for ways to help one another fulfill our missions.
Tell us a little about any upcoming events Goodwill is involved in:
Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania is partnering with Thrill Mill Inc. on the 2015 Thrival Innovation and Music Festival. The Thrival Innovation and Music Festival is Pittsburgh’s premier convening platform for new ideas, change agents, cutting edge technology, creative artists, and disruptive thinkers. Join us in September 2015 to experience Pittsburgh, and discover the blueprint for post-industrial resurgence.
The music portion of the event is an intersection of art and new ideas. Thrival will feature 25 acts from emerging international, national, and local artists. In previous years, Thrival has featured Portugal, The Man, Talib Kweli, Misterwives, De La Soul, and Moby. The 2015 line-up is coming soon.
The innovation portion takes place over the course of a week. Top level thought leaders and organizations present original innovation-focused events for the general public. This year, Goodwill will present a symposium focused on sustainability through creative reuse.