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29 posts from April 2010

The Most Viewed 'PhilanTopic' Posts in April

April 30, 2010

Instead of a final Readings list on this, the last day of month, we thought we'd share with you the five most viewed PhilanTopic posts in April. Enjoy!

  1. Finance and Budgeting Tips for Young Nonprofit Workers (Regina Mahone)
  2. The War on the Poor (Michael Seltzer)
  3. P/PV President Nadya Shmavonian on Evaluative Learning (Mitch Nauffts)
  4. The Trouble With Values (Thaler Pekar)
  5. Foundations Need to Be More Transparent (Brad Smith)

Use the comments section to let us know what you've been reading and would recommend....

Key Facts on Social Justice Grantmaking

Today we turn our attention to social justice philanthropy, which the Foundation Center defines as "the granting of philanthropic contributions to nonprofit organizations based in the United States and other countries that work for structural change in order to increase the opportunity of those who are the least well off politically, economically, and socially."

First, some key facts:

  • $3.7 billion -- Giving by sampled funders for social justice-related activities in 2008
  • 14.7 percent -- Share of overall grant dollars targeting social justice in 2008
  • 46.9 percent -- Share of 2008 social justice grant dollars supporting international activities
  • Economic development -- Top-ranked field by share of 2008 social justice grant dollars

According to the center's most recent social justice benchmarking study, Social Justice Grantmaking II: An Update on U.S. Foundations Trends, social justice-related grantmaking by U.S. foundations climbed to nearly 15 percent of giving in 2008. Over most of the past decade, funding for social justice had remained fairly steady at between 11 percent and 12 percent of grant dollars awarded.

Socjustice_keyfacts_overall
 

A primary factor contributing to the increase in the share of grant dollars targeting social justice-related activities in 2008 was the emergence of the nation's largest private foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as the country's top social justice funder. In fact, in 2008 the foundation awarded 22 of the the 25 largest social justice grants.

Socjustice_keyfacts_25largest
 

(Note: The charts and tables in this post are based on the giving of U.S. private and community foundations. As a result, they exclude social justice-related grantmaking by public charities as well as by non-U.S. social justice grantmakers, including Atlantic Philanthropies, arguably the largest of the latter. Established more than twenty years ago by Duty Free Shops co-founder Charles Feeny, Atlantic, which is spending down, plans to award approximately $350 million a year until it completes active grantmaking in 2016.)

The center's research also shows that social justice giving by U.S. foundations spans all areas of activity, from human rights to environmental justice to to the arts. Consistent with past trends, the biggest share of dollars awarded in 2008 went to economic and community development (31.1 percent), followed by health care access and affordability (20.8 percent) and human rights and civil liberties (11.2 percent).

Socjustice_keyfacts_fields

Socjustice_keyfacts_domestic

To learn more and/or download free highlights (13 pages, PDF) of the center's most recent social justice benchmark study, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Readings and Other Stuff (April 29, 2010)

April 29, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention today:

Have anything you'd like to share?

Key Facts on Corporate Foundations

April 28, 2010

Today we've got a few charts and figures from "Key Facts on Corporate Foundations," the second of three fact sheets pulled from the just-released 2010 edition of Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates.

First, some facts:

  • $4.4 billion -- Estimated giving by corporate foundations in 2009
  • -3.3 percent -- Estimated decrease in corporate foundation giving betwen 2008 and 2009
  • 2,745 -- Number of grantmaking corporate foundations in 2008
  • 20 percent -- Share of corporate foundations reporting more than $1 million in giving in 2008
  • 10 percent -- Corporate foundation giving as a share of all foundation giving in 2008

Findings from the Foundation Center's annual giving survey show that corporate foundations reduced their giving by an estimated 3.3 percent in 2009 -- a smaller decline than those reported for independent (-8.9 percent) and community (-9.6 percent) foundations. Total grant dollars awarded by corporate foundations also fell, to $4.4 billion -- less than the record $4.6 billion awarded in 2008 but on par with the total for 2007.

Corp_keyfacts_inflation

Corp_keyfacts_growth 

According to the Giving Estimates report, the smaller reduction in giving by corporate foundations was a bit of a surprise, given the across-the-board reductions in corporate earnings in 2009 and the large share of giving -- typically about one-quarter -- historically accounted for by foundations established by firms in the banking and finance sector. The findings suggest a couple of possibilities: that corporate foundations were making exceptional efforts to minimize cuts in giving during the economic crisis/downturn; and/or the surprisingly rapid return to profitability of several major firms in the banking and finance industry.

Corp_keyfacts_overall

Compared to community and independent foundations, the larger corporate foundations included in the Foundation Center's 2008 grants sample were more likely to allocate funding to the public affairs/society benefit category. Nevertheless, education (23 percent) remained the top priority of corporate foundations in the center's survey, followed by and human services (20 percent), public affairs/society benefit (19 percent), health (14 percent), arts and culture (13 percent), environment/animals (4 percent), international affairs/development/peace (3 percent), science/technology (3 percent), and other (1 percent).

Finally, three out of five corporate foundations responding to the center's annual survey expect to either increase (43 percent) or maintain (17 percent) their giving in 2010, with the rest (40 percent) saying they expect to see reductions in their giving.

Corp_keyfacts_2010outlook

To download a free copy of the complete Giving Estimates report (12 pages, PDF), click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Readings and Other Stuff (April 27, 2010)

April 27, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention today:

Have anything you'd like to share?

Key Facts on Community Foundations

Our colleagues in Research have released a series of fact sheets pulled from the just-released 2010 edition of Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates. We'll be taking a look at all three over the next few days, starting with a few key facts on community foundations:

  • $4.1 billion -- Estimated giving by community foundations in 2009
  • -9.6 percent -- Estimated decrease in community foundation giving between 2008 and 2009
  • 709 -- Number of grantmaking community foundations in 2008
  • 46 percent -- Share of community foundations reporting more than $1 million in giving in 2008
  • 10 percent -- Community foundation giving as a share of all foundation giving in 2008

As the charts below show, for most of the past two decades, annual growth in community foundation giving had surpassed gains reported by independent and corporate foundations. This pattern reversed in 2009, with community foundation giving declining by an estimated 9.6 percent, exceeding the estimated reductions in independent (-8.9 percent) and corporate (-3.3 percent) foundation giving. This was the first decline in current-dollar community foundation giving recorded since 1994.

Comm_keyfacts_overallgivinghist



Comm_keyfacts_cumgrowth

Findings from the Foundation Center's annual giving survey also show that education (23 percent) and human services (20 percent) were the top priorities of community foundations in 2008, followed by arts and culture (16 percent), health (13 percent), public affairs/society benefit (11 percent), environment/animals (7 percent), religion (5 percent), international affairs/development/peace (3 percent), science/technology (2 percent), and other (1 percent).

Comm_keyfacts_priorities

Finally, the survey found that community foundations appear to be somewhat pessimistic about the outlook for their giving in 2010, with a larger share of community foundations (42.2 percent) anticipating a reduction in their giving this year compared to corporate (40 percent) and independent (38.1 percent) foundations. Moreover, among the largest community foundations -- those giving more than $10 million -- half expect to reduce their funding in 2010.

Comm_keyfacts_giving2010

Despite the lower levels of giving, community foundations have been leaders in responding to needs generated by the economic crisis. According to a center survey conducted at the height of the crisis in early 2009, 35 percent of community foundation respondents were engaging in special initiatives to help their communities cope with repurcussions of the economic downturn.

To download a copy of the complete Giving Estimates report (12 pages, PDF), click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Foundations and the Common Good

April 26, 2010

Rosenman_large Few would deny that the social, environmental, and public health problems we face are growing more complex. Or that the consequences of the global financial crisis have put additional pressure on most organizations to do more with less.

At the same time, the idea that philanthropy could be more effective in pursuit of its goals has been a topic of conversation for at least a decade. Indeed, the "golden age" of philanthropy ushered in by the tech and dot-com boom of the mid-1990s has given rise over the years to a number of concepts (capacity building, organizational effectiveness, impact assessment) and frames (venture/high-engagement philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, social justice philanthropy) that seek to illuminate and address the shortcomings of institutional philanthropy.

Mark Rosenman, professor emeritus at the Union Institute and director of Caring to Change (C2C), a project conducted in collaboration with the Aspen Institute's Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, is the latest to attempt such a synthesis -- and he's done a bang-up job of it.

But first, some background. As Rosenman explains in a new essay and report, the C2C project was conceived with

the premise that while many philanthropists and foundations seek to address deep-seated problems and affect broad-based change, too much grantmaking fails to have lasting, truly consequential, and verifiable impact. Although foundations' grantmaking has accomplished much of extraordinary significance, it is not the purpose of this project to celebrate those achievements. At its heart, [C2C] is an endeavor that aims to be critical and constructive at the same time....

In service of that goal, Rosenman and his colleagues had in-depth conversations with more than fifty leaders in the field and interviewed over a hundred staffers at foundations, nonprofits, and other organizations. All that information and feedback went into the drafting of a working paper that presented suggestions for improved grantmaking strategies. Additional input was then solicited at a retreat of nonprofit and foundation leaders and program officers in 2009. The report based on that work, Foundations for the Common Good (74 pages, PDF), was published a few weeks ago and is beginning to make a splash.

In it, Rosenman says that the rubric of the Common Good "emerged as the unifying theme that best organized and expressed both the wisdom and the longing of those engaged by the project." What does Rosenman mean by the Common Good? In the report, he explains that from the early days of the Republic, it has always been characterized (as the U.S. Constitution puts it) "as the effort to 'establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.'"

"In this conception," says Rosenman, "as a society we get closer to the Common Good when we achieve freedom from untoward interference in our lives, as secured by the Bill of Rights. We also advance toward the Common Good when we enjoy the freedom to have equal opportunities for the pursuit of society's rewards, regardless of the circumstances of our birth, the wealth of our families or our other demographic characteristics...."

Indeed, promotion of an inclusive notion of the Common Good is the foundation on which Rosenman's frame is built. And while he acknowledges "that different people will think differently about Common Good values," he is absolutely clear about what is required of foundations:

[I]t is the whole which must be engaged by foundations. It is this process of grounding grantmaking in the Common Good, of finding its meaning and identifying its implications for actions, that needs to guide foundations. It requires conversation and argument across differences within and outside foundations, and like other institutions in our society, it needs to be given formal priority and have specific procedures to continually reach and refine answers. Without constant and sufficient attention to the Common Good, foundations certainly will produce individual goods in service to some narrower interests -- but may do so in ways which fail to achieve their full or enduring power or which may inadvertently harm the social whole....

Foundations for the Common Good is more than a theoretical exercise, though. In fact, the second half of the report lays out three broad strategies that emerged during the project as central to the C2C vision: 1) philanthropy's role is to advance the Common Good; 2) foundations should promote diversity and vigorous equal opportunity/outcomes; and 3) foundations should work to connect analyses, programs, organizations, and people. For each, the report offers specific suggestions as to how to advance that work. The suggestions include:

  • Foundations should acknowledge the centrality of the Common Good and define the core values that motivate their work.
  • Foundations should consider grantmaking for programs that intend to explicitly instill, reinforce, and animate Common Good values.
  • Foundations should affirm that diversity is a central concern in all program areas and for general support grants.
  • Foundations should support nonprofit organizational development initiatives that address concerns of diversity and which vigorously pursue equality of opportunity/outcomes.
  • Foundations should convene grantees that are potential collaborators, but don't compel partnerships.
  • Foundations should create systems-reform opportunities by collaborating with other foundations.

It's an interesting list and well worth checking out (you can find the complete list below the jump).

But that's enough for now about the report. What do you think? Does philanthropy need a new framework to drive greater impact and effectiveness? And if so, is promotion of the Common Good, as laid out in Rosenman's thoughtful report, the right frame?

Share you thoughts in the comments section....

Continue reading »

Council on Foundations Conference Coverage

Weren't able to make it out to Denver for the 2010 Council on Foundations annual conference? Not to worry. Kris Putnam-Walkerly (Putnam Community Investment Consulting), in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, has organized a team of experts, foundation CEOs, nonprofit executive directors, and program officers to share their thoughts and impressions of the conference at Putnam's Philanthropy411 blog.

Want more? Council staffers and guest bloggers are doing the same at the council's RE: Philanthropy blog.

Between the two, this year's conference is likely to end up as the most blogged sector conference in history. Enjoy!

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (April 24 - 25, 2010)

April 25, 2010

Chain-links Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

Last week, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken unveiled a new cause-marketing campaign, Komen's KFC (Pink) Buckets for the Cure, that nonprofit marketing and communications expert Nancy Schwartz (and others) labeled "a huge...mistake." "Your nonprofit brand is the essence of your organization," writes Schwartz on her Getting Attention blog. "Komen has been trusted as a force for improving women's health....But this deal shows that it can't be trusted as such...."

Network for Good's Katya Andresen discusses the elements of an effective online fundraising campaign in a new video posted to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Social Philanthropy blog.

Fundraising

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks thinks that fundraisers need to do more than just ask their donors for money. According to Brooks, they also need to thank donors, report back on what donors' gifts have accomplished, ask for things other than money, and in general just try to be nice.

Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship blogger Nathaniel Whittemore explains how he and others managed to plan and execute, in just thirty-two hours, the TEDxVolcano event after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano disrupted European air travel and left many of this year's Skoll World Forum attendees stranded in London.

GuideStar president and CEO Bob Ottenhoff discusses the importance of providing microcredit loans rather than grants in the developing world. Writes Ottenhoff: "There is the obvious advantage that a loan means the money is eventually returned and can be recycled to be reused for other borrowers. Sustainability for both the lender and the lendee are achieved. More important, it provides dignity to the borrower...."

Social Media

Nonprofit Board Crisis blogger Mike Burns takes a jab at online contests after receiving (via snail mail) a poster from the Community Reinvestment Fund. The poster "instructed" him to vote every day through May 2 to help CRF win Sam's Club Giving Made Simple campaign. "And therein lies my problem with 'American Idol Philanthropy,'" writes Burns. "A bunch of nonprofits are knocking themselves out, taking time away from mission, to get 'hits.'"

Maybe it's time to cut slackers and slacktivists who "are wasting too much time using technology for fun" a, well, little slack, writes Kristin Ivie on the Social Citizens blog. "Instead of rolling our eyes at kids these days and their online gaming and chatroulette," says Ivie, "[maybe] should we embrace the fact that youth all over the world are becoming well-versed in the tools that can champion a cause...."

Technology

Last but not least, Lucy Bernholz takes a closer look at how different organizations are using technology to change our assumptions about social solutions, adding that "it is not the technology that matters, it is what we do with it."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

'Ten Ways' for Foundations to Strengthen Diversity and Inclusiveness

Diversity-haende-171x143-pi As the Council on Foundation's 2010 annual conference gets under way in Denver, the council has released a set of three reports designed to strengthen diversity and "inclusive practices" in the philanthropic sector. Customized for community, family, and independent foundations, the reports define the term diversity in the context of "the breadth and depth of human difference," including but not limited to "differences of ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and identification, age, class, economic circumstance, religion, ability, geography, and philosophy, among other forms of human expression."

The reports pointedly note that "Achieving diversity does not merely consist of documenting representation via headcounts and checklists" -- a reference to the advocacy of the Greenlining Institute and the 2009 National Council for Responsive Philanthropy report Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best -- "but rather entails inclusion in decision making" as a path "to enhanced creativity, a broader range of options, and increased effectiveness." And each report underscores the point thusly:

Diversity and inclusive practices in philanthropy are being reconceived more broadly as a set of activities meant to contribute to a foundation's overall mission and effectiveness. This mind-set can be particularly relevant to [independent, communty, family] foundations with few or no staff members or with limited flexibility to change board structure and funding focus. Donor intent, mission, and strategy are equally important factors and often influence the way diversity and inclusive practices are considered by different foundations....

The ten recommendations in each report support this frame:

Continue reading »

In Memorium: C.K. Prahalad, 'Bottom of Pyramid' Author

CKPrahalad Surprised to learn earlier today that management guru C.K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton Publishing, 2004), passed away on April 16 at the age of 68 after a brief illness. According to the Times of India, it was Prahalad's proposition "that businesses stop thinking of the poor as victims and instead start seeing them as value-demanding consumers that drove companies such as Hindustan Lever and Godrej [in India] to come out with ultra-small sachets of everything from shampoo to gutka, sparking off a retail revolution...."

As Prahalad, who came to the U.S. in the early '70s and earned a degree in management from Harvard Business School, wrote in the Preface to Bottom of the Pyramid:

...I do not want the poor of the world to become a constituency. I want poverty to be a problem that should be solved. This book is about all of the players -- NGOs, large domestic firms, MNCs, government agencies, and, most importantly, the poor themselves -- coming together to solve very complex problems as we enter the 21st century. The problem of poverty must force us to innovate, not claim "rights to impose our solutions."

The starting point for this transition [has] to be twofold: First, we should consider the implications of the language we use. "Poverty alleviation" and "the poor" are terms that are loaded with meaning and historical baggage. The focus on entrepreneurial activities as an antidote to the current malaise must focus on an active, underserved consumer community and a potential for global growth in trade and prosperity as the four to five billion poor become part of a system of inclusive capitalism. We should commence talking about underserved consumers and markets. The process must start with Bottom of the Pyramid consumers as individuals. The process of co-creation assumes that consumers are equally important joint problem-solvers. Consumers and consumer communities will demand and get choice. This process of creating an involved and activist consumer is already emerging. The BOP provides an opportunity to turbocharge this process of change in the traditional relationship between the firm and the consumer. Second, we must recognize that the conversion of the BOP into an active market is essentially a development activity. It is not about serving an existing market more efficiently. New and creative approaches are needed to convert poverty into an opportunity for all concerned. That is the challenge....

Prahalad's ideas about the BoP, which he spread through a series of books and papers, as a sought-after consultant and speaker, and as a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, resonated with and influenced the likes of IDE co-founder Paul Polack (Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail), Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz (read our Q&A with Novogratz here), and even Bill Gates, who, according to the Times of India, said of Prahalad's ideas that they "[offer] an intriguing blueprint for how to fight poverty with profitability."

The painful consequences of the global financial crisis have thrown into question a bunch of ideas that seemed obvious to many during the bubble years. Too big to fail, housing prices always go up, the national debt doesn't matter -- if these and others aren't totally discredited at this point, it's only because people have been distracted by American Idol and the train wreck that is Kate Gosselin. 

Similarly, whether consumer-focused strategies really are the key to alleviating the misery and unlocking the potential of billions of people at the bottom of the pyramid is still anyone's guess. No one, however, can question the fundamental premise underlying much of Prahalad's work: It's time to stop thinking of the poor as a burden and to start thinking of them as resilient and creative human beings.

-- Mitch Nauffts

A Chat With Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen Fund

April 23, 2010

Jacqueline_novogratz She started out as an investment banker who viewed herself as a "citizen of the world" and ended up as an outspoken proponent of "patient capital" as the solution to the problems of global poverty. Along the way, Jacqueline Novogratz helped to pioneer microfinance in Rwanda, picked up an MBA at Stanford, spent half a dozen years at the Rockefeller Foundation, and founded the Acumen Fund, one of the first venture capital funds to focus its investments on the "base of the pyramid" (BoP) -- the billions of poor without access to clean water, reliable health services, or formal housing options.

Recently, PND spoke with Novogratz about the problems with traditional development aid, the importance of moral imagination, and the opportunities for change created by the global financial crisis.

Philanthropy News Digest: Much of Acumen's work and investments around the world are focused on poverty alleviation. Traditionally, that's been the purview of international aid programs and large NGOs. You've been fairly outspoken in your criticism of such approaches. What don't traditional aid experts get about poverty?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I guess I'd say that too often they see the poor as objects rather than as human beings who want to make their own decisions and control their own destinies. They're not great at understanding the situation on the ground from the perspective of the poor and then coming up with solutions that allow people to be active participants in improving their own lives.

PND: You've also been critical of traditional aid approaches for creating what you refer to as a "charity mentality" among donors and grantees. How does Acumen's approach differ from more traditional development approaches?

JN: In a number of ways. First, we don't give out handouts, we invest in people. Second, we measure what we do in terms of both financial return as well as social impact. Third, we discuss and report back on our failures as much as our successes. Fourth, we don't consider ourselves as having "donors." At Acumen, we have investors, although they don't receive a monetary return on their investments in the traditional sense of that term. Instead, they invest and become stakeholders in what we do because they want to share in our successes and learn from our failures.

Continue reading »

This Week in PubHub: The Environment and the Clean Energy Economy

April 22, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about global public health initiatives.)

BlueMarble Today's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day -- what better time to look at a handful of reports that deal with aspects of the emerging clean energy economy?

Investment in the clean energy industry worldwide has grown 230 percent since 2005 and is forecast to reach $200 billion in 2010, according to Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World's Largest Economies: G-20 Clean Energy Factbook (Pew Charitable Trusts). Among the G-20, China, Brazil, the UK, Germany, and Spain all have strong domestic policies aimed at reducing global warming and all offer healthy incentives for renewable energy production and clean energy job creation. Without a similar policy framework to stimulate investment in solar, wind, bioenergy, and energy efficiency, the report warns, the United States risks falling behind in the race to lead the global clean energy economy.

What actions should the U.S. be taking? The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses and Investments Across America (Pew Charitable Trusts) offers a state-by-state analysis of clean energy jobs, businesses, and public and private investments across five categories — clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, conservation and pollution mitigation, and training and support — as well as policies to promote clean energy. According to the report, financial incentives, renewable portfolio standards for electricity providers, energy efficiency standards, regional initiatives, and vehicle emissions standards, combined with federal stimulus spending, are all needed to spur further growth.

What barriers do policy makers face in adopting such policies? One concern is that the adoption of cap-and-trade or a carbon tax would make carbon-intensive U.S. industries less competitive with China and other emerging economic powers. China, the U.S., and the Climate Change Challenge (World Resources Institute) suggests that such concerns can be addressed by including a domestic allowance in U.S. cap-and-trade legislation as well as through coordinated bilateral and multilateral action. The report also examines China's energy policies and argues that a comprehensive U.S. climate policy could strengthen recent environmental advances in that country by making clean technologies cheaper and easier to adopt.

Meanwhile, it seems that many industrialized nations are working at cross-purposes when it comes to climate change. World Bank Energy Sector Lending: Encouraging the World's Addiction to Fossil Fuels (Bank Information Center) looks at how the World Bank's approach to energy-sector lending encourages a reliance on fossil fuels in developing countries at the expense of a rational, measured transition to a low-carbon economy. According to the report, lending for fossil fuel projects increased by 102 percent in fiscal year 2008, compared with only 11 percent for renewable energy projects. What's more, the carbon emissions over time from projects funded by the bank in 2008 will amount to more than twice the annual emissions from Africa's entire energy sector, further impeding the bank's efforts to help the very people it is trying to lift out of poverty.

So what do you think our environmental and climate change priorities should be as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day? Next week's roundup of reports will focus more on what U.S. cities and corporations are doing. Until then, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below. And don't forget to check out PubHub, where you'll find annotated link to almost two hundred and seventy reports related to the environment.

-- Kyoko Uchida

Readings and Other Stuff (April 21, 2010)

April 21, 2010

Here are a few items that caught our attention:

What are you reading/watching/listening to?

The War on the Poor

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he spoke with Gloria Steinem about the economic downturn and its impact on women and nonprofit organizations that serve and support women and girls.)

Keep_your_coins_i_want_change In the midst of a recession that has seen millions join the ranks of the poor (the "new poor," as Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem’s Children Zone, calls them), one might expect to encounter more empathy for low-income Americans.

One group, however, isn't that sympathetic -- Tea Party members and conservative radio and television commentators. Indeed, to hear them tell it, concern for the poor, whether they struggle to make ends meet in the hollows of Appalachia or the barrios of South-Central Los Angeles, leads to one thing and one thing only: Big Government. And Big Government, as any Tea Partier will tell you, is the cause of our economic and political woes.

In an eye-opening front-page article ("Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated," April 14, 2010), New York Times reporters Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan shared some fascinating Tea Party data. According to a Times poll, a majority of self-identified Tea Party rank-and-filers said the policies of the Obama administration favor the poor, while 25 percent felt the administration favors blacks over whites (compared with 11 percent of the general public).

Such views are buttressed by the rantings of a small but vocal segment of the chattering class. The right-wing radio commentator Glenn Beck, for example, recently launched a campaign to vilify well-respected political scientist and City University of New York professor Frances Fox Piven for her work on behalf of the nation's poor.

Piven's crime?

As Peter Edelman and Barbara Ehrenreich explain in an article in the Nation ("What Really Happened to Welfare," April 12, 2010), Piven and her late husband, Richard Cloward, hatched a "plot" some forty-five years ago in the pages of the Nation to get civil rights groups, social service agencies, and others to enroll large numbers of the eligible poor in the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program. The idea, says Beck, was to impose large spending obligations on the public sector, thus "breaking the system."

Continue reading »

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