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287 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

Emmett and Trayvon: How Racial Prejudice Has Changed in the Last 60 Years

July 19, 2013

On August 28, 1963, America witnessed what was arguably the greatest demonstration for racial justice in the history of the country. Half a century after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the looming question of racial equality in America remains.

In the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, PhilanTopic is publishing a ten-part seriess, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in which some of America's most important writers explore our race issues, past and present.

In the second installment of that series (click here for the first, "America's Twentieth-Century Slavery," by Douglas A. Blackmon), Elijah Anderson, the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University, explores how racial prejudice in America has changed in the sixty years since fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, visiting relatives in Mississippi, was brutally beaten and possibly shot by a group of men, who later dumped his body in a nearby river, because he had flirted with the daughter of a local storeowner. Anderson's latest book is The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life. The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

___________

 

Headshot_elijiah_andersonSeparated by a thousand miles, two state borders, and nearly six decades, two young African American boys met tragic fates that seem remarkably similar today: both walked into a small market to buy some candy; both ended up dead.

The first boy is Emmett Till, who was fourteen years old in the summer of 1955 when he walked into a local grocery store in Money, Mississippi, to buy gum. He was later roused from bed, beaten brutally, and possibly shot by a group of white men who later dumped his body in a nearby river. They claimed he had stepped out of his place by flirting with a young white woman, the wife of the store's owner. The second boy is Trayvon Martin, who was seventeen years old late last winter when he walked into a 7-Eleven near a gated community in Sanford, Florida, to buy Skittles and an iced tea. He was later shot to death at close range by a mixed-race man, who claimed Martin had behaved suspiciously and seemed out of place. The deaths of both boys galvanized the nation, drew sympathy and disbelief across racial lines, and, through the popular media, prompted a reexamination of race relations.

In the aftermath of Martin's death last February, a handful of reporters and columnists, and many members of the general public, made the obvious comparison: Trayvon Martin, it seemed, was the Emmett Till of our times. And while that comparison has some merit -- the boys' deaths are similar both in some of their details and in their tragic outcome -- these killings must also be understood as the result of very different strains of racial tension in America. The racism that led to Till's death was embedded in a virulent ideology of white racial superiority born out of slavery and the Jim Crow codes, particularly in the Deep South. That sort of racism hinges on the idea that blacks are an inherently inferior race, a morally null group that deserves both the subjugation and poverty it gets.

The racial prejudice that led to Trayvon Martin's death is different. While it, too, was born of America's painful legacy of slavery and segregation, and informed by those old concepts of racial order -- that blacks have their "place" in society -- it in addition reflects the urban iconography of today's racial inequality, namely the black ghetto, a uniquely urban American creation. Strikingly, this segregation of the black community coexists with an ongoing racial incorporation process that has produced the largest black middle class in history, and that reflects the extraordinary social progress this country has made since the 1960s. The civil rights movement paved the way for blacks and other people of color to access public and professional opportunities and spaces that would have been unimaginable in Till's time.

While the sort of racism that led to Till's death still exists in society today, Americans in general have a much more nuanced, more textured attitude toward race than anything we've seen before, and usually that attitude does not manifest in overtly hateful, exclusionary, or violent acts. Instead, it manifests in pervasive mindsets and stereotypes that all black people start from the inner-city ghetto and are therefore stigmatized by their association with its putative amorality, danger, crime, and poverty. Hence, in public a black person is burdened with a negative presumption that he or she must disprove before being able to establish mutually trusting relationships with others.

Most consequentially, black skin when seen in public, and its association with the ghetto, translates into a deficit of credibility as black skin is conflated with lower-class status. Such attitudes impact poor blacks of the ghetto one way and middle-class black people another. While middle-class blacks may be able to successfully overcome the negative presumptions of others, lower-class blacks may not. For instance, all blacks, particularly "ghetto-looking" young men, are at risk of enduring yet another "stop and frisk" from the police as well as discrimination from potential employers, shopkeepers, and strangers on the street. Members of the black middle class and black professionals may ultimately pass inspection and withstand such scrutiny; many poorer blacks cannot. And many blacks who have never stepped foot in a ghetto must repeatedly prove themselves as non-ghetto, often operating in a provisional status (with something more to prove), in the workplace or, say, a fancy restaurant, until they can convince others -- either by speaking "white" English or by demonstrating intelligence, poise, or manners -- that they are to be trusted, that they are not "one of those" blacks from the ghetto, and that they deserve respect. In other words, a middle-class black man who is, for instance, waiting in line for an ATM at night will in many cases be treated with a level of suspicion that a middle-class white man simply does not experience.

But this pervasive cultural association -- black skin equals the ghetto -- does not come out of the blue. After all, as a result of historical, political, and economic factors, blacks have been contained in the ghetto. Today, with persistent housing discrimination and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, America's ghettos face structural poverty. In addition, crime and homicide rates within those communities are high, young black men are typically the ones killing one another, and ghetto culture, made iconic by artists like Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, and the Notorious B.I.G., is inextricably intertwined with blackness.

As a result, in America's collective imagination the ghetto is a dangerous, scary part of the city. It's where rap comes from, where drugs are sold, where hoodlums rule, and where The Wire might have been filmed. Above all, to many white Americans the ghetto is where "the black people live,” and thus, as the misguided logic follows, all black people live in the ghetto. It's that pervasive, if accidental, fallacy that's at the root of the wider society's perceptions of black people today. While it may be true that everyone who lives in a certain ghetto is black, it is patently untrue that everyone who is black lives in a ghetto. Regardless, black people of all classes, including those born and raised far from the inner cities and those who've never been in a ghetto, are by virtue of skin color alone stigmatized by the place.

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After a Gay-Rights Victory, a New Challenge for Grantmakers

July 04, 2013

(Michael Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs at the City University of New York and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. A version of this commentary was published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy earlier in the week.)

Supreme_Court-Gay_MarriageTwo days before the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which occurred on the streets of my neighborhood, Greenwich Village, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution and that states have the right to pass same-sex marriage laws.

While the decision came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that dealt an unconscionable blow to voting rights, the court's decision on same-sex marriage will go down as one of the most significant and historic civil-rights victories in our lifetimes.

It also is a moment for philanthropy to reflect on its power to further social justice. Nonprofits, with the support of foundations, paved the way for the decision. But individual donors and foundations have more work to do to help ensure full equality for all Americans, regardless of race or sexual orientation.

It was Stonewall, after all, that led to the birth of hundreds of grassroots nonprofit organizations dedicated to working on behalf of gay people victimized by flagrant discrimination and outright hostility.

In Philadelphia, where I lived in the 1970s, the first LGBT organizations to open their doors included the Eromin Center (an acronym for "erotic minorities"), which provided mental-health services; CALM (Custody Action for Lesbian Mothers), which assisted lesbian mothers caught in legal battles over custody of their children; and the Gay Activists Alliance.

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On the Fourth, Stand by the Fourth (Amendment)

With Egyptians by the millions having declared their independence from authoritarianism and political Islam, our own national holiday of independence seems like a good time to remind each other that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and that the "great task" laid at the feet of all Americans by our greatest president is to ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

 

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Trouble at the IRS: What Were They Thinking?

May 16, 2013

(David Jacobs is director of foundation information management at the Foundation Center. In his last post for PhilanTopic, he blogged about an Open Data Master Class presented by the World Bank.)

Irs-auditLike many Americans, I was shocked to learn last week that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative and Tea Party organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status for additional review prior to last year's elections. And like many Americans, my shock turned to disgust this week as additional details -- including the alleged leaking of confidential donor information -- emerged, showing the scandal to be more serious than initially disclosed.

Regardless of whether you believe what happened in Cincinnati was an act of political malfeasance or just a case of monumental governmental ineptitude, the fact that it did happen should be sending shockwaves through the nonprofit sector. One of the bedrock principals of organized philanthropy and nonprofit advocacy in America is the idea that such activity should be tax advantaged, regardless of cause or political orientation, and that, when it comes to the nonprofit sector, the IRS should always operate in a fair and impartial manner. The thought that that might not be the case in every instance should bother and disturb all Americans.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 20-21, 2013)

April 21, 2013

Magnolia_bloomsOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

On her Getting Attention blog, Nancy Schwartz has some recommendations for nonprofit communications officers (here and here) on how to communicate during a time of crisis.

Current Affairs

In the wake of the horrific bombing at this year's Boston Marathon, Philanthropy 411's Kris Putnam-Walkerly has curated a list of resources for anyone interested in learning more about philanthropy's response to the tragedy. As of Friday, the One Fund Boston, which was created by Boston mayor Thomas Menino, had raised more than $10 million to help victims of the attack.

As if the marathon tragedy wasn't enough to rattle Americans, on Wednesday a fertilizer plant in the Texas town of West caught fire and exploded, killing at least fourteen people and injuring hundreds of others. According to ThinkProgress economic policy editor Bryce Covert, the plant hadn't been inspected in five years. Covert goes on to explain that the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "is chronically understaffed, which means that a given plant like West Fertilizer can only expect to get a state inspection once every 67 years on average." And what's more, OSHA is "slated to take a huge cut under the sequester...."

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Boston Foundation Statement on Marathon Attack

April 16, 2013

The Boston Foundation issued the following statement this morning in reaction to the attack on the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon:

Yesterday at 2: 50 p.m., our community was torn apart by an act of unspeakable cowardice and evil. Today, we join our neighbors, our community, and friends across the nation and the world not only in grief, but in our determination to overcome this heinous crime. All of us at the Boston Foundation wish to express our sympathies and support to all those directly affected by the attack, and pledge to provide short- and long-term support to the community as we all seek to recover and heal.

We continue to be in touch with state and local officials as well as other members of the nonprofit and philanthropic community, as we develop our immediate and longer-term efforts to support our community in this time of need.

Throughout its history, the people of the City of Boston have demonstrated their resilience and strength in times of crisis -- and we have seen those acts of courage and heroism already in the past day. Boston is our home, and for nearly 100 years we have been honored to play a role in strengthening and supporting this community. Together, we can all take comfort in the knowledge that we can and will work together as a community to lift up the victims of this tragedy, ease their suffering and support each other in this challenging time.

The foundation is currently gathering information on scheduled events for the public in tribute to those harmed by the attack and is posting those on its Web site, tbf.org. It will issue more statements on its plans as they are finalized.

Whither Livestrong? 5 Questions for...Leslie Lenkowsky

October 18, 2012

After years in the public eye, first as a world-famous athlete who won the grueling Tour de France, the crown jewel of international cycling, a record seven consecutive times, and subsequently for his central role in a still-unfolding doping scandal, American Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, resigned on Wednesday as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded some fifteen years ago. Hours later, Nike, one of Armstrong's biggest sponsors, dropped him as a spokesperson -- and was soon joined by half a dozen other Armstrong sponsors.

Earlier today, PND spoke with Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, about the Armstrong scandal and its likely effect on Livestrong. Lenkowsky, who writes and speaks frequently about nonprofit management and governance issues, has served as a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, as president of the Hudson Institute and the Philanthropy Roundtable, and as CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Lenkowsky_headshotPhilanthropy News Digest: Which surprises you more: Lance Armstrong's decision to step down as chair of Livestrong, formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, or the fact he waited till now?

Leslie Lenkowsky: That he waited until now. In fact, leadership of the organization has been passing from him to others for quite a long time. Stepping down now inevitably makes his decision look like it's related to the doping accusations. Since he is planning to stay on the board, he would have done better to make the transition earlier. But in many nonprofits, founders have a way of staying a bit too long.

PND: Close association with a celebrity can be a slippery slope for an organization, especially when the celebrity's name is on the letterhead. Do you think Livestrong's efforts to broaden its appeal beyond Armstrong will be enough to keep it from seeing a significant drop in its revenues?

LL: Yes. Livestrong has a very diversified base of support, lots of members and chapters, good national partners, and, most importantly, a well-developed set of programs. It has long since outgrown its association with Armstrong, and while his troubles may weaken his value for the organization's events and in other ways, they won't produce a significant drop in revenues.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 15-16, 2012)

September 16, 2012

Lincoln-McClellan-AntietamOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Communications/Marketing

Looking to create or strengthen a tagline for your organization? Nonprofit marketing expert Nancy Schwartz has selected sixty-three nonprofit taglines from fourteen hundred submitted to her Getting Attention blog over the summer and is asking readers to help choose the 2012 Nonprofit Tagline Award winners. Voting is open through midnight on October 5, and if you subscribe to the Getting Attention e-update while you're on the site, you'll get a free copy of the 2013 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report (due in late fall).

In a post on the Communications Network blog, Louis Herr says that "limiting Web evaluation to a clickstream product like Google Analytics starves you of critical information." In his post, Herr highlights the argument made by Avinash Kaushik in Web Analytics: An Hour a Day -- to wit, that to be truly actionable, Web analytics should focus on measures of behavior, outcome, and experience, not just page views and click counts.

Fundraising

On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Lissa Jones, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Minnesota Council on Foundations, discusses the implications of the Millennium Communications Group's Donors of the Future Scan, which identified twelve key trends in giving. Those trends include a giving population that is growing more diverse, increasing pressure on endowed giving, and the growing popularity of "flash" and Internet giving portals.

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Social Impact Documentaries: 'Reportero'

September 10, 2012

(Kathryn Pyle recently marked her fourth anniversary as a PhilanTopic contributor. In her last post, she returned to the subject of her very first post, the Adams County Library system in a rural part of south-central Pennsylvania, to check on its progress in improving services for the growing Latino population in the area.)

Reportero_posterAs the audience for social issue documentary films grows, the intersection between a film and its impact is of increasing concern to media funders, media organizations, and filmmakers themselves. There is general agreement that documentary films are an important source of information and opinion in our corporate-dominated media landscape and that they often provide the in-depth analysis of complex issues lacking in most mainstream media coverage. But how one measures the impact of individual films or the field as a whole is still very much a work in progress. As in other spheres, grantmakers are interested not just in the quality of the project (the film, in this case) but also in the results it leads to. And nongovernmental organizations, most of which are still learning how to best use the documentary format, are looking for models.

Two sessions at the annual "Funders Conversation" hosted by Media Impact Funders earlier this summer addressed these concerns. Indeed, the recent rebranding of the organization, which had been known since its inception as Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media (GFEM), is testament to the trend.

"Very few of our members define themselves as film funders," explained MIF executive director Vince Stehle in a conversation at the affinity group's new office in Philadelphia. "Documentary film will continue to be as important, if not more so, than it's ever been. But it's only one feature of the media landscape, along with journalism, public media, community media, social media, and technology. MIF reflects all those communitiess as they work to achieve positive social impact. And we support the growing interest in measuring impact and understanding engagement."

One session, on "Documentary Film Impact and Outreach," focused on partnerships between filmmakers and Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization founded in 1976 that uses film to combat racism, anti-Semitism, and prejudice. In partnership with Skylight Pictures (also a presenter at the session), the organization developed three video models and a study guide (available online) based on the Skylight film The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court.

Another session, "Measuring Media and Philanthropy," reported on a new initiative led by the Foundation Center's GrantCraft project and GuideStar to track and map funding for media. The session also described an inquiry into measures of engagement with, and the impact of, grantmaker-funded media projects headed by Jessica Clark of AIRmedia.

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Campaign Finance and Charities

September 06, 2012

(Mark Rosenman, a Washington-based scholar-activist and director of Caring to Change, a D.C.-based effort to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he looked at the potential impact of the Romney/Ryan platform on nonprofits.)

Rosenman_headshotCharities depend on people's trust and on the public's support for their existence. Unfortunately, much of that goodwill is being eroded by the behavior of some nonprofit organizations in the 2012 presidential race.

First, it's important to understand that there are lots of different kinds of organizations that are granted tax-exempt status by the IRS. They range from industry associations and what are called "social welfare organizations" to the charitable and faith-based groups we usually think of when we hear the term "nonprofit." Only donors to the latter, however, receive a tax deduction for their charitable donations.

For years, most social welfare organizations operated in service to a particular charitable concern and the broader community. The main difference between these organizations and charities is that the former are granted extensive powers to lobby government -- although those activities may not include "direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office." As my grandmother used to say, that's all gone to hell in a handbasket since the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Citizens United decision in 2010 -- and that hurts charities.

A lot has been written about the partisan political abuses perpetrated by what are known as (c)4 groups (that's the IRS designation for social welfare groups; charities are classified as [c]3s). Indeed, in this election cycle, (c)4s are using the secrecy afforded them by law -- (c)4s do not need to make public the names of those who fund them -- as never before to pour millions of dollars into vitriolic presidential ad campaigns intended to influence voters.

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Syria: A (PubHub+) Reading List

August 28, 2012

The Syrian government's crackdown on the civil unrest that began in 2011 has claimed thousands of lives and displaced 1.5 million people. With the violence intensifying -- 4,000 people have been killed in the fighting in August alone -- and the United Nations Security Council announcing that it will not renew its observer mission to the war-torn country, the prospect of a negotiated settlement to the conflict is looking ever more remote. Below are several reports from PubHub and other sources that provide some context for understanding the religious, political, and geopolitical divides behind the unrest.

What do we know about the composition of Syria's population? According to Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population, a report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, approximately 20.2 million Syrians, or 92.2 percent of the population, are Muslim, with Sunnis comprising the majority (74 percent) and Shia and Alawites (the sect President Bashar al-Assad's family belongs to) comprising between 15 percent and 20 percent of the population.

Opposition to the Assad regime is concentrated among the Sunni, and many Sunni Islamists abroad are vocally encouraging their co-religionists inside Syria to "rise up and fight." In their article "UK Islamists and the Arab Uprisings" in Current Trends in Islamist Ideology (Vol. 13, August 2012), a publication of the Hudson Institute's Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World, James Brandon and Raffaello Pantucci examine how Islamists living in the West helped shape the Arab Spring movements that set the stage for the uprising in Syria. Brandon and Pantucci note that a wave of Islamist exiles arrived in the United Kingdom from Syria after the Muslim Brotherhood tried to overthrow the regime of Hafez al-Assad (Bashar's father) -- a revolt brutally suppressed by Assad -- in 1982. Two UK-based Islamists, Anjem Choudhary and Omar Bakri Mohammed, have clearly expressed a desire to see the current Assad regime toppled. "For them, the ongoing strife in Syria is a clear-cut example of how the West is conspiring against Muslim warriors who are fighting for the oppressed masses," Brandon and Pantucci write. "They believe this despite the fact that strongest support for intervention comes from the West."

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NPO Job Openings (July 2012)

August 23, 2012

It’s been three weeks since the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the July job numbers, and the muted optimism that greeted news of a modest uptick in nonfarm payrolls seems to have dissipated as the presidential campaign has turned relentlessly negative.

According to the BLS, total nonfarm employment rose by 163,000 in July -- an increase of 99,000 from the 64,000 jobs added in June and significantly better than the 96,000 jobs added in July 2011. While the unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.3 percent (12.8 million people) -- a fact Republicans are likely to beat like a drum at their convention -- the average number of jobs added on a monthly basis rose above 151,000 for the first time in 2012.

July_2012_cnn_money

(Chart courtesy CNNMoney)

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Romney, Ryan, and Charity

August 16, 2012

(Mark Rosenman, a Washington-based scholar-activist and director of Caring to Change, a D.C.-based effort to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he argued that nonprofits are missing from critical policy debates.)

Rosenman_headshotWith the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate, Mitt Romney has changed the stakes of the 2012 presidential race. Well beyond Republican versus Democrat, the question now before Americans is who we are as a nation and a people. Over the next four years, we must make decisions about public responsibility for the common good, about what we expect of government, and of what we expect of one another. The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors cannot afford to ignore this debate.

Developed by the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee and already passed by the House of Representatives, the so-called "Ryan Plan" would have an immediate impact on many nonprofits, especially those serving low- and moderate-income people. Ultimately, however, it would affect each and every area of government support for charitable causes.

Indeed, after announcing Ryan as his running mate, candidate Romney issued a statement trying to distance himself from the plan, even though previously he had described it as "marvelous" and said he was "on the same page" as Ryan in terms of budget priorities. Charities are prohibited involvement in electoral politics, but helping to shape a public discussion about policy and our values as a nation is essential; nonprofit and foundation leaders must declare which page they are on.

Before we take a closer look at the unfolding debate, let me point out that Mitt Romney has himself already proposed similar policies. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concludes, for example, that Romney's detail-deprived proposal for tax reform would give the wealthiest Americans a significant tax cut while imposing tax increases on the remaining 95 percent of Americans.

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Nonprofits Missing From Big Battles

June 06, 2012

(Mark Rosenman, a Washington-based scholar-activist and director of Caring to Change, a D.C.-based effort to promote foundation grantmaking for the common good, is a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, Rosenman and co-author Gary D. Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation, wrote about efforts by Congress to curtail the advocacy rights of nonprofits.)

Rosenman_headshotWe are seven months from what some are calling "taxmageddon" and others describe as a "fiscal cliff." And while leaders in the nonprofit sector are narrowly focused on proposed changes to the charitable tax deduction that could reduce charitable donations by about $2 billion a year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already approved cutting trillions of dollars from programs critical to low- and moderate-income people and the charities that serve them.

Charities and foundations should be gearing up to confront immediate and near-term policy battles of extraordinary consequence to them. Instead, they seem to be wearing blinders -- or simply fear controversy, no matter the stakes.

Congressional Republicans seem to want a repeat of last summer's divisive struggle over raising the debt limit and are committed to pursuing new budget cuts. This comes after the House recently approved changes to last year's deficit-cutting sequestration agreement and shifted what was a shared annual burden of $109 billion entirely to domestic programs.

House Republicans also are trying to preserve Bush-era income tax cuts for wealthy Americans, an action that if successful will cost an estimated $1 trillion in revenue over ten years -- and doesn't include the loss of billions in revenue from estate tax reductions for millionaires. They have already passed the budget put together by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a plan that goes well beyond a renewal of the Bush cuts and give millionaires an additional tax break averaging $265,000 a year while cutting over $3 trillion from programs that serve low-income people or fund the charitable programs that help them.

This is not chump change. To give you a sense of the magnitude of the proposed cuts, the shift in sequestration alone is more than the total annual giving of all U.S. foundations combined. And the so-called Ryan plan calls for cuts in domestic program over ten years that are about seven times the equivalent projected total of foundation giving -- a shortfall that would result in some two million people losing their access to food stamps and another forty-four million having them reduced. The Ryan plan also would eliminate the social service block grant through which nonprofits now provide services to some twenty-three million people, over half of them children, as well as invalids dependent on Meals on Wheels programs, those in foster care, and those who rely on nonprofit childcare.

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NPO Job Openings (April 2012)

May 25, 2012

After surprising on the upside in January and February, the job numbers for March and April came in below expectations, reviving fears that, without further Fed easing, the economic recovery could stall.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payrolls grew by 154,000 in March and only 115,000 in April, while the number of unemployed in April fell to 12.5 million from 12.8 million and the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 8.1 percent (the lowest level since February 2009). BLS also revised upward the February (from +240,000 to +259,000) and March (+120,000 to +154,000) payroll numbers.

Cnn_money_4_2012

(Chart courtesy CNNMoney)

Here at PND, our own completely unscientific gauge of the economy's health -- i.e., submissions to the PND job board -- tells a slightly different story, with monthly job postings in April down on a consecutive and year-over-year basis, though not enough to set off alarms. Indeed, for the first four months of the year, the number of jobs posted to the job board eclipsed, by almost 5 percent, the number posted over the same four-month period in 2011, suggesting that the nonprofit sector, like the economy in general, is recovering (albeit slowly) from the disaster of 2008-09.

Pnd_jobschart_april2012
Unsurprisingly, given the tough funding climate, demand for nonprofit development and fundraising professionals remains strong. And we're also seeing a lot of postings in the finance category -- up 8 percent on a year-over-year basis -- perhaps because of increased merger and restructuring activity in the sector.

It might be overstating things to say the optimism we felt in January has faded. But with Greece on the ropes and the seventeen-country Eurozone at risk of falling into "severe recession" -- or worse -- the next couple of weeks will be crucial. And then there are the elections in November, with control of all three branches of government at stake, and, looking a little farther down the road, the dreaded "fiscal cliff" our elected officials in Washington seem determined to explore. How it all shakes out, and what that might mean for the nonprofit sector, is anyone's guess (though we're betting against a Thelma and Louise-style finale). In the meantime, we'll be keeping our eye on the May job numbers, to be released June 1, for clues.

-- Lauren Brathwaite

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