New Tools for Family Revival

  • Public-Policy Reform
  • 2015

Like other Americans, donors have worried about the direction of family trends since the 1960s, when mushrooming divorce, illegitimacy, father absence, and other problems began to expose children to new risks. It is widely understood that family breakdown is a major contributor to other social problems like rising poverty, criminal behavior, schooling lags, and health issues. But few charities have showed much success at re-knitting families together. And culture wars surrounding family issues scared many donors away from even trying.

Then in 2015 The Philanthropy Roundtable began convening major donors and encouraging them to contribute to a kitty of at least $30 million to be used to support fresh efforts at bolstering family integrity. This “Culture of Freedom” initiative particularly proposed to borrow new techniques from the business and technology worlds and adapt them into tools to be used by churches and and local nonprofits in low-income communities where family decay is dragging down incomes, child welfare, and adult happiness. Things like demographic micro-targeting of social services, social-media promotion of family-reinforcement programs, app-based support for healthy home habits, and so forth. The initiative chose three cities in which to test services: Jacksonville, Dayton, and Phoenix. An initial drop in divorces in Jacksonville and spike in family church attendance in Dayton gave donors and service providers hope, early in 2017, that some of these new techniques may hold national promise.