Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

61 posts categorized "Public Affairs"

President's Budget Proposal Targets Foundations

May 26, 2017

TargetWhile most of the media coverage of President Trump's proposed budget has focused on his plan to eliminate sixty-six programs and slash funding for hundreds more, until now one major aspect of the plan has escaped attention: the White House budget blueprint silently, yet effectively, targets private philanthropy as the fallback subsidy for government programs that would be downsized or eliminated.

For Fiscal Year 2018, which begins October 1, 2017, the Trump budget proposes to cut $54 billion from "non-defense" (mostly domestic) programs that provide jobs, food, housing, safety, health care, education, and more for tens of millions of individuals across the country. Yet, the president's Budget Message to Congress, Budget Summary, Major Savings and Reforms, and Appendices all fail to disclose how the budget would simultaneously cut government spending and address people's ongoing needs. Where will those tens of millions of people turn if these programs are cut on October 1?

As the Washington Post reports, "Trump's plan would put the onus on states, companies, churches and charities to offer many educational, scientific and social services that have long been provided by the federal government."

The White House cannot realistically expect the states to meet the markedly increased unmet human need caused by its proposed cuts to domestic spending. More than half the states have been in deficit mode during the last year, and more than half already are projecting budget shortfalls for their next fiscal year. Compounding the problem: the states, on average, receive 30.1 percent of their revenues from the federal government. When the federal government cuts domestic spending, that includes cuts to the states. For example, the FY2018 budget blueprint proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant ($2.9 billion) and Community Services Block Grant ($731 million) programs, which together provide funds for states and localities to spend on anti-poverty programs, emergency food assistance, affordable housing, public improvements, and public services. The proposed budget is rife with recommended cuts that the states cannot absorb, and which would leave tens of millions of people without a safety net.

Contrary to the Washington Post analysis above, anyone thinking that for-profit companies will step in to fill the gap is misguided. The very reason people in need turn to charitable nonprofits and governments is because they cannot afford what for-profit businesses charge.

That leaves the White House apparently expecting charitable nonprofits, religious groups, and private philanthropy to come up with the billions upon billions of dollars needed to assist the tens of millions of Americans who would be left behind if these cuts ever materialize.

One thing is perfectly clear: politicians across the country eager to cut government budgets are misinformed about the scale and role of private philanthropy in meeting the needs of Americans. I once heard the chair of a state legislature's appropriations committee attempt to justify deep cuts to a basic human service program by saying, "Well, if you care that much, go talk to the Gates Foundation about paying for it."

That uninformed perspective seems to have spread since the Great Recession, as more elected officials have quietly assumed they can abandon government-funded programs with the expectation that mission-driven nonprofits and foundations will step forward to meet the ongoing need.

Yet, as the graphic below plainly shows, alternative sources of revenue for the nonprofit sector (including private foundations and individual giving) cannot begin to fill the gigantic gaps created when governments cut funding for programs intended to ensure that basic human needs are met.

SOURCES OF REVENUE, CHARITABLE NONPROFITS

Delaney 052617

Consider just two examples out of hundreds of proposed cuts in the White House budget to safety net and community programs:

  • SNAP: The White House proposes cutting $193 billion over the next decade ($4.6 billion in FY2018) from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program).
    • If passed, what happens to the children, the elderly, and veterans who depend on the program?
    • To raise the $193 billion to prevent such a tragedy would require the nation's twenty-three largest foundations — including Gates, Ford, Getty, Robert Wood Johnson, Lilly, Hewlett, and Kellogg — to cash out their assets and close their doors forever.
  • TANF: The White House plancalls for cutting $21 billion over the next decade ($1.7 billion in FY2018) through changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which allocates grant funding to states to assist people who are either pregnant or caring for a minor child.
    • If passed, what will happen to those unborn babies, infants, and children who depend on the program?
    • The years from birth to age three are critical to human development, a fact ignored by the White House proposal.
    • To raise the needed $21 billion would require the next eight largest foundations — including Buffett, Cargill, Casey, Mott, and Walton — to cash out and shut down their operations.

Such proposed cuts, whether to one program or to many, are too heavy a burden for nonprofits and private philanthropy to carry.

So where are the voices of foundations as government attempts to indirectly tax them to subsidize safety-net programs? Silenced, in part, by federal law that prevents private foundations, in most instances, from lobbying. At the same time, even as this quiet yet very real threat to foundations has been growing during the last decade, many foundations have shifted their giving away from support for advocacy efforts designed to protect the commons — the work of the broad 501(c)(3) community (nonprofits and foundations) — and instead have focused their grants almost exclusively on specific causes and foundation-focused projects.

Foundations need only connect the policy dots to see what has been happening...and what the White House budget plan assumes: charitable nonprofits and foundations will somehow ramp up their funding and services to fill gaps created by federal cuts to domestic programs — cuts that, in effect, will underwrite increased military spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The White House budget proposal is irresponsible and unsustainable. Foundations must invest more intentionally in proven nonprofits that have shared policy interests and the freedom under lobbying laws to expose and fight such flawed and misguided policy proposals. If they don't, their assets are likely to be drained if not completely depleted in a futile attempt to mend our tattered social safety net.

Tim_delaney_for_PhilanTopicTim Delaney is president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, the nation's largest network of nonprofits. An accomplished attorney and policy advocate, Delaney has successfully argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, testified before Congress, and negotiated in the White House.

[Review] 'The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age'

May 11, 2017

The mega-wealthy have long been celebrated in American culture. Even in the first Gilded Age, when the likes of Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, and Sage were scorned as robber barons, their wealth — and power — were much admired. In their time, these titans of America's burgeoning industrial might determined the economic destiny of millions and set the course of the nation. And their philanthropy — more than a century on — continues to echo with all the force that money can buy.

TheGiversBookShotToday, as we celebrate the dynamos of a new gilded age — their fortunes, in many cases, made younger, growing faster, moving at the speed of light — we're witnessing a second philanthropic boom. And that seemingly inexhaustible river of "private wealth for public good" brings with it the ideas and voices of those who, having made vast fortunes, are now determined to put that money to use. How society responds to and channels that torrent of money while making sure the ideas it funds best serve the interests of the American people is of broad concern.

In The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, David Callahan gives us a grand tour of the philanthropic landscape in the opening decades of the twenty-first century while opening a window on how today's economic winners — having proved themselves in business — are eyeing philanthropy as the ultimate opportunity to convert wealth into power. But where a Matthew Josephson might have distrusted such a development, in Callahan's telling these masters of the universe are thoughtful, broad-minded, and, yes, even likable. He's not interested in taking them down, criticizing their often rapacious business practices, or pointing out the role played by fiscal and tax policy in cementing their status as the .01 percent. Instead, his is a book about the giving away, not the getting, of great wealth.

Founding editor of the Inside Philanthropy website, a founder of public policy think tank Demos, and a former fellow at the Century Foundation, Callahan has a reputation as a keen observer of philanthropy and civil society and it serves him well here. Not only does he know his subject, he's also interviewed many of the people in his book — Priscilla Chan, Eli Broad, Melinda Gates, and John Arnold, to name a few — and is able to support his own judgments with their words. And what both he and they see is a future in which giving by the mega-wealthy is going to be bigger, more sophisticated, and more focused on influencing public policy debates.

Of course, many of today's mega-wealthy, people like Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg, have indicated they have little interest in leaving much of their wealth behind. (In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Bloomberg joked with correspondent Steve Croft about "a guy on his death bed in a hospital with the rails around and his family looking down like vultures. And he looks up and says, 'I know I can't take it with me, but I can take the access code'.") Indeed, in the next decade alone, some $740 billion is likely to be distributed in the form of private philanthropy. And if the Giving Pledge — the Buffett and Gates effort to encourage the uber-rich to commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes — is any gauge, we could see another trillion dollars in private wealth making its way to nonprofit organizations and causes over the lifetimes of the one hundred and fifty-eight current "pledgers" who have signed on. (Learn more about that campaign and its signatories at the Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge feature.) How all that money will be used over the coming decades is what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might call a known unknown, but it undoubtedly will have important and lasting effects, and that — as well as who will decide what its impact might be — is at the center of Callahan's inquiry.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 6-7, 2017)

May 07, 2017

Macron-victory-celebrationOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Philanthropy

Forbes contributor Robert Reiss profiles five organizations that are redefining corporate philanthropy. 

Environment

The restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, one of the most important estuaries in the United States, is showing signs of success. So why, asks journalist and Bay Journal columnist Tom Horton on the Yale Environment 360 site, is the Trump administration seeking to eliminate funding for those ongoing efforts?

Lots of people in the climate change community are not happy the New York Times hired longtime Wall Street Journal op-ed writer Brett Stephens as a columnist for its opinion pages. Vox's David Roberts explains.

Inequality

Could persistent disagreements over inequality and opportunity (e.g., "self-made" vs. "takers") be the result of cognitive bias? On the New York Times' Upshot blog, Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of economics at Harvard, looks at how our tendency to remember and celebrate the challenges we faced, not the advantages we've had, colors our perceptions of those who are less fortunate — and how we might use that bias to create better public policy.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (April 29-30, 2017)

April 30, 2017

World_peace_in_our_handsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

In a post on the Colorado Trust site, Kristin Jones, the trust's assistant director of communications, details three of the structural factors that, according to the latest data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT initiative,  are holding back children in the state, with real consequences for their health.

Communications/Marketing

As if there isn't already enough in the world to disagree about, design shop Elevation has created a gallery showcasing its favorite 75 nonprofit logos. Let the games begin!

Environment

Barry Gold, director of the Environment program at the Walton Family Foundation, explains why fishing reforms recently enacted in Indonesia and the U.S. Gulf Coast region point the way to a more sustainable fishing industry in the twenty-first century.

Foundation Center has launched a new Web portal, FundingTheOcean.org, designed to help funders and activists track, inform, and inspire ocean conservation. 

The UN Foundation's Justine Sullivan shares seven reasons why the U.S. would be foolish to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Food Insecurity

On the Civil Eats site, Mark Winne talks to Andy Fisher, author of the new book, Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups, about poverty, the "business" of hunger, and Fisher's vision for a new anti-hunger movement.

Continue reading »

Nonprofits, Partisan Politics, and Tax Policy

April 27, 2017

Tax_cutsCalls for tax reform by the White House, Congress, and others have led to proposals that would have a direct and profound impact on nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. Of those proposals, one from the House Republicans calls for eliminating the tax deduction for charitable donations, one floated by the White House would eliminate an incentive for charitable bequests, and another from a coalition of nonprofit organizations would expand the deduction to more taxpayers. The three proposals couldn't be more different.

But while charities and donors are scrambling to preserve (or expand) their tax advantages, there are other worrisome proposals floating around. Most significantly, President Trump and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill want to change the tax code to allow charities to engage in partisan electoral activity — while, at the other extreme, some want to disallow tax deductions for support of nonprofit advocacy and policy work.

Certainly, one can understand why most tax-exempt organizations would fight to protect the tax incentives for charitable contributions that support their work, but such efforts raise questions about whether charities and donors are worried more about their own self-interest than the public good.

Nonprofits' efforts to preserve and extend the charitable deduction would be less suspect were the organizations fighting for those policies as engaged in the debates over other government tax, budget, and policy initiatives — debates that profoundly threaten many of the causes and constituencies they exist to serve. When nonprofit and foundation leaders are missing from such debates, it becomes easier to impugn their motives for trying to preserve their own tax advantages. Protecting the charitable deduction is not an adequate surrogate for broader action.

Against this backdrop, the president's pledge to "totally destroy" the so-called Johnson Amendment prohibition on charities' involvement in partisan electoral campaigns needs to be addressed (as do other administration proposals).

Continue reading »

Changing the Political Climate

April 06, 2017

Us-politics_climateThe election of Donald Trump, together with Republican control of the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and most statehouses, is both a reflection of and serves to underscore the dramatically altered political climate in America. Many nonprofit and philanthropic leaders are scrambling to figure out how they can best operate in this new environment. Too few of them are thinking about how they might work to change it.

A lot of people would like to see it change. We know that a significant majority of Americans are stressed by the outcome of the election and that fully two-thirds are deeply concerned about what it will mean for the nonprofit sector and the nation. That presents an opportunity for charities and foundations. Instead of trying to make do, nonprofit leaders should try to make change.

Make no mistake: efforts designed to alter the context for the administration's policy agenda will find a sizeable and receptive audience. Sixty percent of Americans are embarrassed by the past actions and rhetoric of the president and do not feel he shares their values; similar percentages feel he is neither temperamentally suited for the job nor honest and that his actions are dividing the country. Given these concerns, an outpouring of donations and willing volunteers are finding their way to charities either directly affected by the Trump agenda or working to resist it.

The question now for many nonprofits is how will they deploy the new support they are receiving. Will it be used to ramp up frontline services made necessary by cutbacks in government funding and regulations? Will they allocate it to policy advocacy and organizing aimed at directly contesting the Trump and Republican agendas? Will they also use it help fuel initiatives aimed at changing the political climate in ways that renders these other activities less necessary?

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (March 2017)

April 04, 2017

Maybe the nicest thing we can say about March was that it came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. If the lion's share of your media consumption during the month was devoted to March Madness (of the sports or political variety) and you missed out on your regular PhilanTopic reading, well, here's your chance to catch up.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or gave you a reason to feel hopeful? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Reframing Addiction: Removing Stigma, Saving Lives

April 03, 2017

Addiction_disease_brain_300Every parent worries about the harm his or her child might encounter in the world. As parents, we dedicate our time and energy to protecting our children from every preventable danger — accidents, violence, illness. Why, then, don't we take steps to stop the epidemic that is claiming more American lives than car crashes or gun violence — the devastating disease of addiction? Addiction is killing our children. Even worse, the stigma associated with addiction keeps many people who are affected from seeking treatment.

In 2011, I lost my son Brian to addiction. He didn't die of an overdose or as a result of a drug-related crime. In fact, he had been in recovery for more than a year. The undeniable reality is that it was not just addiction that claimed my son's life — it was the shame he felt every morning when he opened his eyes that led him that day to research suicide notes, light a candle, and take his own life.

Brian had struggled with the disease of addiction for nearly ten years, cycling through eight different treatment programs. He desperately wanted to lead a normal life. His substance-use disorder was not indicative of a lack of willpower on his part; rather, the chemistry of his brain continually worked against him. Brian wasn't irresponsible. He was always curious, cheerful, and consistently caring. A dear companion and a beloved child. Full of compassion.

I wish I could say my anguish has subsided over the years since his death. But it has only intensified with the knowledge that addiction is a disease that is preventable but that we don't prevent; that is treatable but that we don't treat; that is undeniable but that we continue to deny.

Continue reading »

Putting Communities First: A Collaborative Fund for the San Joaquin Valley

March 24, 2017

Sierra_health_future_is_meThe San Joaquin Valley is a testament to the troubling social, environmental, economic, and health divides that exist between individuals and communities living within relatively close proximity to one another. A mere three-hour drive from California's prosperous coastal communities, the Valley is home to a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, but many of the children who live there go hungry. And while the need for food assistance varies across the state, it is highest in the Valley. Data in our recently released report, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region and Its Children Under Stress (32 pages, PDF), show that eight of the counties in the Valley are among the top nine agricultural producers in the state, and that seven of these same counties are among the ten counties with the highest child poverty rates. What's more, in six of the Valley's nine counties, over 40 percent of residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program, while one in four schools do not have access to clean drinking water.

California also is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, 10 percent of whom live in the region. Immigrants make up 42 percent of the agricultural workforce and 11 percent of the region's overall workforce, and emerging evidence shows that recent policy efforts have placed their safety, health, and emotional well-being at risk. In combination, these inequities place residents of the Valley at greater risk for negative, often preventable health outcomes such as childhood asthma, diabetes, depression, cancer, and trauma.

While California has provided leadership on some of the nation's most pressing health and racial equity issues, the San Joaquin Valley has been left behind. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank has called the region "the Appalachia of the West." To address the complicated mix of challenges facing Valley communities, Sierra Health Foundation launched the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund (the Fund) to build and support a network of community organizations committed to promoting resident voices, ideas, and agency aimed at driving policy and systems change at a regional level. With an initial investment from Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment, the Fund is managed by The Center, a nonprofit created by Sierra Health Foundation to bring people, ideas, infrastructure, and resources to bear on the challenge of eradicating health inequities across the state. Among other things, The Center helps communities access proven practices, tap their existing knowledge and creativity, and act collectively to create the political will necessary to put their ideas into action. The investment fund is now a partnership of nine local, regional, state, and national funders, including The California Wellness, Rosenberg, W. K. Kellogg, Blue Shield of California, Wallace H. Coulter, Dignity Health, and Tides foundations.

Continue reading »

We Fund What We Value

March 17, 2017

Axe-hatchetThe just-released Trump budget, "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and massive cuts elsewhere that will pose huge challenges for philanthropy.

Leave aside the politics (please) and consider what this means for donors. The budget calls for the complete defunding of four cultural agencies — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Eliminating the NEA cuts $148 million; the NEH, $148 million; the IMLS, $230 million; and the CPB, $445 million. From the NEA alone, $47 million in state grants leveraged an additional $368 million in state funding. That's roughly $1 billion, plus $368 million from the states.

Science and basic research take a massive hit, with the National Institutes of Health losing almost $6 billion of its $30 billion budget. It's important to remember that 80 percent of NIH funding goes to outside researchers in universities and labs across the country — major recipients of foundation and individual donations.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 11-12, 2017)

March 12, 2017

Keep-calm-and-let-it-snow--680Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

After a decade of declining meat consumption, Americans again are eating more meat, and Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther wants to know why people "who adore their dogs and cats blithely go on consuming meat products that cause needless suffering to pigs, cows and chickens."

Education

On Medium, Nick Donohue, president/CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, suggests that "education as a whole hasn't changed much since today's retirees were students themselves, sitting in class and scribbling notes in cadence with a teacher's lecture. We've operated schools as if they were industrial factories, with one size fits all approaches to teaching and learning that resemble assembly line practices. In doing so, we are doing what we did 100 years ago  —  culling and sorting the more elite students and leaving the rest behind...."

Health

In her latest annual message, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, who in April will step down as head of the foundation, shares seven lessons she has learned about improving health in America.

Immigration

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. — people living here without permission from the American government — and, as the New York Times' Vivian Yee, Kenan Davis, and Jugal K. Patel illustrate in this fact-based piece, they are not necessarily who you think they are.

Continue reading »

Time for Philanthropy to Take Bold Action: Invest in Policy Change

March 10, 2017

Change_buttonOver the past few weeks, we've witnessed a new administration work daily to roll back rights our communities have fought hard to win, putting in jeopardy everything from immigrants' rights and economic security to educational equity and women's health.

At the same time, and despite the increasingly politicized climate in the country, we are heartened to see people stepping up and taking action in the streets, online, and in the corridors of power. In record numbers, more and more of us are becoming engaged in the political process, participating in protests, organizing our communities, and communicating with our elected officials.

Philanthropy, too, must answer the urgent calls to take action and support programs, initiatives, and tools that can help protect communities from draconian changes in policy while advancing the values we hold dear. By tools I mean policy advocacy and organizing. If we truly hope to create a just and equitable society for all Americans, we need more funders in California and around the country to invest in advocacy and organizing efforts that help vulnerable groups and communities withstand the attacks directed against them while taking proven solutions to scale. We need community leaders who know how to work with legislatures at the state and local level to shape more just policies. And those leaders need the knowledgeable and strategic support of philanthropists willing to be partners in their work.

At the Women's Foundation of California, we know we can't create opportunities for our communities without an explicit focus on policy change aimed at both dismantling barriers and expanding rights. As the only statewide foundation in California focused on gender equity, we work every day to advance the leadership of women in public policy. Over the past fourteen years, our Women's Policy Institute has worked with more than four hundred women leaders to advance gender equity through policy change. And those women, in turn, have helped pass twenty-nine laws that have improved the health, safety, and economic well-being of millions of people living in California.

Continue reading »

Foundations Engaging in Policy: Not an Option But an Obligation

March 08, 2017

Policy_word_cloudPhilanthropy as a sector produces an ever-increasing body of writing aimed at encouraging impact investments for the public good. Much of that writing ignores a key consideration: Any foundation involved with impact investing cannot be taken seriously if it does not engage in policy. For many foundations, particularly family foundations, the idea of engaging in policy work is daunting, and in too many cases it's viewed as something to be avoided entirely. But while too many foundations consider engaging in policy work to be risky, I argue that it is as important a function as grantmaking and evaluation. And if we take evaluation seriously, we have no choice but to share those learnings with others, including policy makers.

Most of us know that Congress has imposed stringent limits on foundations with respect to advocacy and even more stringent prohibitions on their lobbying activities. Fully aware of the power that comes with accumulated wealth, Congress enacted prohibitions against charitable institutions engaging in lobbying as early as 1934. Later, in 1954, then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson sponsored legislation to prohibit nonprofit organizations, including foundations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates, and extended that prohibition to churches. In 1976, Congress created five exceptions to the lobbying prohibition on foundations. They are: (1) making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, studies, or research that may (or may not) include advocating a particular position; (2) the discussion of broad socioeconomic policy as long as it's not designed to encourage others to take action; (3) the provision of technical advice to a government body; (4) "self-defense" lobbying with regard to action that may affect a charity's existence or tax-exempt status; and (5) communication with members of Congress as long as they are not directly engaged in direct or grassroots lobbying themselves.

The legislated restrictions on what foundations can and cannot do to influence legislation often scare foundation boards away from committing their considerable institutional power and knowledge on behalf of the most fundamental right of all: speaking out on matters of policy. Foundations can do better. Indeed, we have an obligation to do so, if only to ensure that our investments in the social sector are leveraged to maximize our impact. Policy work is not lobbying: policy is what results from listening, gathering data, and developing frameworks that support solutions. Policy informs legislation, which, when crafted well, integrates the solutions defined by policy.

Continue reading »

Apocalypse Later? Philanthropy and Transparency in an Illiberal World

March 02, 2017

The following post by Foundation Center president Brad Smith introduces a new, year-long series here on PhilanTopic that will address major themes related to the center’s work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning nonprofit or changemaker. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

_____

Open-Data-470x352How long will it be before nonprofit transparency takes its place alongside diceros bicornis on the endangered species list? Hopefully never, but in a world that's growing more technologically sophisticated and more illiberal, I'm beginning to think that if it's not Apocalypse Now, maybe it's Apocalypse Later.

The value of transparency

Transparency has been a boon to the philanthropic sector, making it possible for organizations like Foundation Center, Guidestar, the Urban Institute, Charity Navigator, and others to create searchable databases spanning the entire nonprofit and foundation universe. Our efforts, in turn, contribute to responsible oversight, help nonprofits raise funds to pursue their missions, and fuel online platforms that enable donors to make better giving choices. Transparency also enables foundations to collaborate more effectively, leverage their resources more efficiently, and make real progress on critical issues such as black male achievement, access to safe water, and disaster response. The incredibly rich information ecosystem that undergirds the American social sector is the envy of others around the globe — not least because it gives us a clear view of what nonprofit initiative can accomplish, how it compares and contrasts with government, and how social, economic, and environmental issues are being addressed through private-public partnerships.

Where we are today

Federal law — U.S. Code, Title 26, Section 6104 — stipulates that public access to Form 990, a federal information form that tax-exempt organizations are required to file annually, must be provided promptly on request at the exempt organization's office or offices, or within thirty days of a written request. However, exempt organizations don't have to provide copies of their Forms 990 if they make these materials broadly available through the Internet, or if the IRS determines that the organization is being subject to a harassment campaign.

In 2015, Carl Malamud, the Don Quixote of open data, dragged transparency into the digital age when he brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service to force it to make the 990s of a handful of organizations that had been filed electronically available as machine-readable open data. Malamud won, and, somewhat surprisingly, the IRS then did more rather than less to comply with the order: as of June 2016, all Forms 990 filed electronically by 501(c)(3) organizations are available as machine-readable open data through Amazon Web Services. As such, they can be downloaded directly in digital form and processed by computers with minimal human intervention. The development represents a victory not only for Malamud but for the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project, which has toiled for years to make 990s more accessible. The idea, of course, is that free, open data on nonprofits will enable more innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to use the data in ways that help make the sector more effective and efficient. Since Malamud won his case, the IRS has posted some 1.7 million Forms 990 as machine-readable open data.

Continue reading »

Marc Morial, President/CEO, National Urban League: Inner Cities and Advocacy in Trump-Era America

February 22, 2017

Marc Morial was raised in a family that understands the importance of education and public service. His father, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, was the first African-American mayor of New Orleans and served two four-year terms; his mother was a teacher. After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1990, Morial was elected to the Louisiana state senate in 1992 and, two years later, was elected mayor of the Crescent City. In 2003, he was named president and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. Under his leadership, the organization has worked to to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and the guarantee of civil rights for the underserved in America. In 2010, to mark its centennial anniversary, the organization launched a call to action focused on achieving aspirational goals in education ("Every American child is ready for college, work and life”), employment ( "Every American has access to jobs with a living wage and good benefits”), housing ("Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms”), and healthcare ("Every American has access to quality and affordable health care solutions”).

A week or so after the inauguration of Donald Trump as forty-fifth president of the United States, PND spoke with Morial about Trump’s frequent characterization of the nation’s inner cities as urban wastelands and how the new administration might partner with African Americans, the majority of whom did not vote for the president. Morial also addressed the importance of improving educational opportunities for people of color and what it will take to help minority-owned businesses thrive in the Trump era. .

Philanthropy News Digest: Both during his campaign and now as president, Donald Trump has characterized inner cities as urban wastelands plagued by drugs, crime, and social dysfunction. What do you think the president is trying to accomplish when he uses rhetoric like that?

Mark_morial_for_PhilanTopicMarc Morial: Well, when he said those things in the campaign, he was appealing to his base. But his characterization of inner cities was narrow, stereotypic, and disparaging. Urban communities are not wastelands, and they're not plagued by drugs, crime, and social dysfunction. They are places with the challenges of drugs, and crime, and other issues, but those challenges are also prevalent in suburban and rural communities. Cities are also places of tremendous human energy, creativity, and assets. They are the economic nerve centers of America. So I found his language to be pejorative, jarring, and I suspect, indicative of his not having spent a lot of time in urban communities. His perspective is probably pretty much informed by stereotypes he sees in the media.

PND: The president has proven adept at using Twitter as a bully pulpit. Is the Urban League doing anything to counter the messages the president puts out via Twitter?

MM: We're very active on social media, and when we encounter messages of public policy we disagree with, we use our social media platform to promote our own message. Of course, the Office of the President is a bully pulpit as well, and this president has chosen to use Twitter versus making frequent public statements or having frequent press conferences, which I think is a new normal. And, of course, his Twitter messages are amplified because they're covered so avidly by the mainstream media. So anything the president puts out there via Twitter is going to be on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, and in newspapers around the country. By the same token, if the president decided to release a handwritten letter on a daily basis, that would be covered by every media outlet. Given that reality, what I would like to see is the mainstream media provide a platform for those whose messages might be in opposition to the president's stated public policy positions.

PND: What do you think a Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions will mean for the work of your organization and other advocacy organizations?

MM: I think all of us are concerned about what a Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department will mean. It's important to recognize that Loretta Lynch — and Eric Holder before her — were very assertive in enforcing civil rights law. That is exactly what we expect any and every attorney general to do. And we're going to hold Jeff Sessions accountable to the kind of enforcement of civil rights laws that Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder championed.

It's important to recognize that the Justice Department not only pursues terrorists and has a role in pursuing "violent crime," it is also is the chief civil rights enforcer in the country and has been that since the 1950s. Jeff Sessions' record in that area concerns us, some of his statements concern us, and so we're going to hold him and his team accountable when it comes to enforcing civil rights law. It is our responsibility to do that.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • " [P]rivileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance....[F]reedom comes only through persistent revolt...."

    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs