Articles by Bahia Ramos Synnott

  • Article

    Vote today for the Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice Award in South Florida

    October 20, 2015 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Vote today for the Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice Award in South Florida

    After eight years in Miami, the Knight Arts Challenge continues to create a delightful spark in our growing and diverse arts scene. We have seen more than 10,000 ideas, coming from all corners of our community, celebrating the beauty of our many cultures and illustrating that South Florida is  a place where ideas thrive. Our collective creativity has helped to make South Florida a vibrant and connected place, and our ideas consistently reflect our ambitions, beliefs and desire to push our boundaries.

    We recently announced 73 finalists for the Knight Arts Challenge. While the finalists are reviewed and winners are selected, we want to introduce you to four nominees for the 2015 Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award. They represent the irreverent and dedicated arts community we see here, from girls who rock to laundromats that become galleries, drums and dance that connect us through the eternal beat and a theater where our stories come to life.

    Starting today through Nov. 17, the public can text to vote for their favorite of the four – with the winner receiving a $20,000 award for the project of their choice. Knight Foundation holds the People’s Choice Award to give you – art lovers and art makers in South Florida – the opportunity to engage in and support the ever-growing arts community here. All it takes is a text to show your support.

  • Article

    Open contests help community foundations catalyze change

    August 28, 2013 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Opportunities for Leadership: Meeting Silicon Valley's Information Needs from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

    Knight Foundation recently released a report on operating prize contests and challenges, “Why Contests Improve Philanthropy.” Below, Bahia Ramos, director of community foundations for Knight, writes about the impact of the Knight Community Information Challenge.

    The Knight Community Information Challenge has received more than 1,000 proposals from more than half of the community foundation field in its five years. That’s a lot of experimentation, but the contest has given us the chance to support and learn from local grant-makers as they moved into a more catalytic role to lead change in their communities.

    We opened the contest without a prescribed notion of what the projects should look like or how they would be structured. It was useful to create a space for community foundations to experiment and take the lead on issues they care about, but we realized after the first round that it was equally important to provide resources to help them implement those ideas. As a result, we created a corps of Circuit Riders to offer technical guidance and to help foundations anticipate and surmount potential challenges in their projects. They were there to consult around a range of issues, including web development, mobile, data and data visualization, journalism and project development, partnerships, social media and community outreach. They were also a great impartial body, invested in the project’s success, whose insight and advice had no connection to grant dollars (past, present or future) and could maintain a trusted, non-transactional relationship with grantees. This was key in getting the field to buy into a new idea.

    Along with Circuit Riders, we funded the Knight Digital Media Center to provide training to community foundations through in-person or web-based modules. The center has offered its expertise not just to challenge grantees, but to any community foundation interested in informing and engaging their communities around critical issues. They have held boot camps for new grantees, as well as regional workshops for organizations that are linked to larger conferences, such as the Council on Foundations, or other great places where the field convenes.

  • Article

    Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days

    February 12, 2014 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days

    2013 Give to the Max Day via

    Last year, as Giving Days became increasingly popular, Knight Foundation looked for a way to help the community foundations organizing them make these online giving campaigns even more effective.


    Media Learning Seminar 2014 Agenda

    Community Information Resources

    "Join us - virtually - for a conversation on community news and information" by Marika Lynch on

    "Using design thinking for community information needs" by Marika Lynch on

    "How to apply human-centered design at home: Lessons from the Media Learning Seminar" by Elise Hu on

    "Community information toolkit gets a refresh" by Kito Cetrulo on

    "Journalism as knowledge: covering solutions to strengthen communities" by Michael D. Bolden on

    "How to open up the data in your community to help solve problems" by Elise Hu on

    "4 new community information investments focus on high-impact projects" by Marika Lynch on

    So Knight did two things: We published the Giving Day Playbook, a comprehensive guide on putting together a 24-hour online giving campaign, and we disseminated it widely to help the broader field.

    We also wanted to go deeper with the foundations in the communities where Knight Foundation invests. To complement the Playbook, we organized a Peer Learning Exchange where participants could gather, share ideas and ask questions.

    The network was a new way of learning and interacting with our Knight community foundation partners, and it worked well; the seven participating foundations with 2013 campaigns surpassed their goals, and participants said the sessions had a big influence on their work. So I thought I’d share some details on how the exchange worked, and some insights the group learned that helped them increase their impact.

    As with any new group, many of the foundations were reluctant to make a commitment to participate in the exchange. Launching a Giving Day requires a certain amount of organizational capacity, and the addition of twice-a-month webinars seemed to add to the load. Organizer Beth Kanter shaped each call around a chapter of the Giving Day Playbook, and her expertise and enthusiasm helped to keep the group engaged throughout the year.

    The calls, and the exchange, became both a fun and trusted space in which grantees could share experiences without fear of reprisal or judgment. In essence, the grantees didn’t feel pressured to just report “the good.” The campaigns were treated as works in progress.

  • Article

    10 lessons for Giving Days, and one question: How can we make them more sustainable?

    September 30, 2014 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    10 lessons for Giving Days, and one question: How can we make them more sustainable?

    It’s impressive if you think about it: In just a few years, community foundations have learned to raise millions for local projects in 24-hour sprints. To do it, their Giving Day campaigns have embraced new technologies and outreach strategies to make philanthropy easy and, well, a ton of fun.

    But now with a few Giving Days under their belts, we hear more and more community foundations asking how these campaigns fit into their long-term strategies. Certainly, they put philanthropy on people’s radar and raise money for great causes. A big win. But are they financially sustainable for the organizations that run them? How could these campaigns be organized to benefit both the community and the causes the foundation cares about?

  • Article

    Giving Days Deep Dive: Join us Monday for a discussion on online giving campaigns

    October 16, 2014 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Giving Days have become such an important event for so many community foundations that this year’s Council on Foundations’ Fall Conference is going deep on the topic.

    What do we know about the effect of Giving Days – beyond the dollars raised and numbers of donors participating? What do they mean for the future of community foundations? We hope to answer some of those questions during our Giving Days Deep Dive from 2 to 5:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, at the conference in Cleveland.

    We’ll also be liveblogging the session here on KnightBlog, so that folks who aren’t attending can follow along.

    The three-hour session will bring together a wide range of speakers, including foundation program officers, evaluators, technology platform providers and network experts.

  • Article

    Free webinar series on taking Giving Days to the next level

    July 8, 2015 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Free webinar series on taking Giving Days to the next level

    Photo credit: Silicon Valley Gives.

    For many community foundations, Giving Days have been a great way to cultivate donors for their community’s nonprofits, while raising millions for local causes. Several funders have gained so much expertise in this area, that they have shared their own tools and templates for the broader field in Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Playbook, an online, soup-to-nuts guide to putting on one of these online giving campaigns.

    Now, though, that many foundations have a few Giving Days under their belts, we’ve heard that organizers need higher-level on training that can help advance their efforts. So today, we’ re introducing our advanced Giving Day webinars, a free and open series addressing the needs of growing and experienced campaigns.  As more community foundations are integrating Giving Days into their work, they face issues of sustainability, and often question how the management of these days helps them leverage their presence in the community and bring in new donor advised funds. This advanced series will focus on topics that speak to those goals, and give advice and tools to participants.

    Moderated by social media expert and trainer Beth Kanter, the series will address a range of topics, from how to land corporate sponsorships to using a Giving Day to build your foundation’s brand.

    And because there are always foundations and staff new to Giving Days, we will kick off the series with a Giving Day Basics for Newcomers in August, as a general introduction for those trying them for the first time.

    Here are the upcoming webinars, with registration links:

  • Article

    Helping foundations meet community info needs

    September 11, 2012 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Helping foundations meet community info needs


    To help community foundations gain digital skills and better meet resident's information needs, Knight recently announced its support to expand the efforts of the Knight Digital Media Center.

    The University of Southern California-based center will offer community foundations virtual and in-person trainings, regional seminars and more.

    The announcement came during this year’s Council on Foundation’s fall conference in New Orleans, where the center led a pre-conference session on  digital strategies. It helped leaders explore opportunities and approaches in the digital age to advance community leadership and network building. More than 40 community foundation leaders attended, including past and present Knight Community Information Challenge winners.

    Cara Matteliano from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo gave a firsthand account of the foundation’s exploration and adoption of digital tools to build a platform for what she called, “community leadership 2.0,” and shared its journey through the systems change that was vital to help people and communities.  Using mobile technology, she surveyed her peers about their own excitement for the digital age, how they support community information and what tools they are currently employing to make sure it is disseminated.

    Matteliano was joined by Sarah Goo from Pew Research Center, who gave an overview of digital trends and habits in the United States and insights as to how citizens are becoming increasingly connected, mobile and social.

    Beth Kanter wrapped up the individual presentations by sharing the network mindset and the opportunity community foundations have to fill structural holes in existing local networks.

  • Article

    Online giving days create new lessons for philanthropy

    July 25, 2013 by Bahia Ramos Synnott

    Online giving days create new lessons for philanthropy


    The following is cross-posted from Markets for Good. Above: The Miami Foundation celebrates after raising $1.2 million for 300 local nonprofits during its inaugural Give Miami Day

    For many community foundations, giving days -- online fundraising marathons -- are a way to engage new donors. The process popularizes philanthropy so that anyone with Internet access and a bankcard can donate to issues that are important to them. In 2012 Knight Foundation launched a Giving Day pilot program, providing grants from $20,000 to $100,000 to eight community foundations for their own trial runs. We learned a lot about the challenges and the rewards of giving days, information that we want to share.

    As a result, we’re assembling an online toolkit to guide community foundations through the basics of running a Giving Day. It will cover setting goals, engaging donors and analyzing the events after they happen. It will help streamline the decision-making and planning for the day, and serve as an expert resource to guide foundations through the process.

    Our pilot program produced commendable results. For example, during Miami Foundation’s inaugural Give Miami Day, 4,992 people gave over $1.2 million to 300 nonprofits. The group of eight community foundations raised over $5.2 million for their nonprofits from more than 40,000 donors. They averaged $124 per gift.