65 posts categorized "Public Affairs"

What Is at Stake, and Why Philanthropy Must Respond

July 19, 2017

WhatsAtStake240In the months since the 2016 presidential election, philanthropy has begun to respond energetically to real and perceived threats to longstanding American principles of justice, equality, and fairness. Yet more is needed to counter policies and actions that undermine democratic norms, roll back essential safety-net protections, and shrink or destroy government programs essential to the health of the nation and the planet.

For the nonprofit world, the election of Donald Trump as president has raised the stakes in ways the two of us have never seen. Most nonprofits have missions that address inequality, injustice, and fairness in some way or another, whether it’s providing services to poor people and others in need, working to protect and extend civil and human rights, promoting environmental and animal protections, advancing equal opportunity, or enriching arts and culture for all.

We strongly believe these values — and the nonprofit work informed by them — are in jeopardy. And whether Donald Trump is the proximate cause of that danger or merely a catalyst for the expression of years of pent-up frustration, we cannot ignore the problem.

Whether or not you applaud Trump’s campaign promise to "drain the Washington swamp" or Sen. Bernie Sanders calls to fix a "rigged" system, it is painfully clear that many Americans have developed a deep-seated distrust of government and politicians. The populist wave of resentment unleashed by Trump’s election is a manifestation of that disillusionment and anger.

Trump understands that Americans want change, that they want to see the system shaken up in a way that forces politicians to listen to their concerns. But his actions, more often than not, are directly contrary to his words. By not divesting himself of his business interests before taking office, Trump has ensured that his many conflicts of interest (and those of his family) are fair game for watchdog groups and the press. His refusal to release his tax returns and his decision to shut down a website showing who has visited the White House make a mockery of his "draining the swamp" mantra and transparency in government. His condemnation of leaks and willingness to undermine administration officials with his words and tweets, as well as to divulge secrets to the nation's adversaries, has sown fear and confusion where clarity and energy on behalf of the American people are needed.

In this and so many other ways, the Trump presidency threatens our notions of a mature, functioning democracy. Too often, his actions seem impulsive and irrational, not reasoned and well thought out, a presidency where "alternative facts" are aggressively promoted and the press is derided as "enemies of the people." Trump himself is a president who takes criticism personally and responds in a vindictive, illiberal manner, weakening our democracy by attacking judges, civil servants, public leaders, and anyone else who questions his veracity and truthfulness.

Indeed, the only predictable thing about Trump is his unpredictably. He was enthusiastically for the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare before he decided it was "mean"; he was for a cybersecurity agreement with Russia and then wasn't; he intimated that there might be White House tapes of his meetings with former FBI director James Comey before revealing he made the whole thing up.

Trump's willingness to play fast and loose with the facts also means that top White House officials and spokespersons are regularly contradicted by his utterances. And the "Who’s on first?" quality of the administration's communications cuts both ways, as the president's tweets and statements are frequently contradicted by top administration officials.

Americans tend to view their presidents as role models. We shouldn't be surprised, therefore, to see the president's personal style ­— his shabby, bullying treatment of women and Muslims, his vulgar tweets, his regular incitements to violence ­— being copied by young people and even other politicians.

The combination of Trump’s impulsive personality and worst tendencies can lead to disastrous results, as in the case of his so-called election integrity commission. The commission had its genesis in an alternative Trumpian belief that Hillary Clinton's three-million popular vote margin was the result of millions of fraudulently cast votes — a claim no political scientist or voting expert believes. But the damage has been done: the commission has sown distrust in the soundness of our election system and may even, as many have noted, be an attempt to institutionalize voter suppression efforts in America.

Already forty-four states have said they will not comply with all or parts of the commission's request for sensitive voter data. Faced with legal challenges to the effort, the operational head of the commission, Kris Kobach — a former Kansas secretary of state with a history of voter disenfranchisement — has tabled the commission’s data collection request until the courts make a determination on its legality and the commission meets for the first time. Meanwhile, real issues such as making our voting machines and elections systems safe from foreign and domestic cybersecurity attacks go unattended.

Against this backdrop, a key question for the nonprofit sector is how to raise and talk about these concerns without appearing to be partisan. Some in the sector even worry that raising such issues will make them the bullseye of the next Trump tweet. To which we say, if nonprofits don't raise these issues, who will? And what are the long-term consequences of silence and inaction?

In other words, this isn't an issue of partisan politics. It's a question of values. It's a question of democracy.

Encouragingly, many nonprofits and funders have stepped up their game. Since the election, individual contributions to important organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have soared. Foundations have made emergency grants to address issues like hate speech, strengthen protections for a free press, address election reforms (including the census and redistricting), and support greater government oversight and accountability.

Despite these and other efforts, political scientists Kristin Goss and Jeffrey Berry argue that not enough is being done by foundations to "reorient their giving — and their public voice — in a sustained way to counter threats to a high-functioning, civil, and inclusive democracy." We agree, but also recognize that much has already been initiated by organized philanthropy.

The core problem for foundations, however, is that they mostly fund single issues as opposed to cross-cutting themes such as strengthening democracy. Foundation Center has developed a database to track democracy spending, and it reveals that roughly 1.5 percent of foundation grants, or $754 million out of a total of $52 billion awarded in grants in 2014, was spent on democracy issues. Because some types of grants might not have been captured for one reason or another, let’s add an extra 0.5 percent to the figure.

But even 2 percent of foundation giving is not enough to fund the activities needed to protect the democratic norms and institutions we take for granted. There needs to be a concerted campaign to at least double this figure to 4 percent for democracy organizing, advocacy, and related policy and infrastructure work.

Yes, foundation leaders and program officers are faced with growing needs in most of their program areas, but — especially at this critical moment — dedicating resources to strengthening democracy is a fundamental investment that simply cannot be ignored.

Headshot_gary_bass_mark_rosenman (002)Every foundation — local, state, regional, national — has a stake in this. Whether you fund the arts, human services, the environment or education, each is embedded in a political culture that, for the most part, values civility, inclusivity, transparency, and accountability — and requires an effective government, an engaged citizenry, and a healthy democracy. To lose that — to give in to partisanship, incivility, and authoritarianism – would be a tragedy of the very first order. We can't let that happen.

Gary D. Bass is executive director of Bauman Foundation and an affiliated professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Mark Rosenman is a professor emeritus at Union Institute & University.

Why I Am Hopeful

July 12, 2017

Hope-in-clouds-images[1]It all started with an email from a friend late last year. She said she was concerned about the tone of our politics and the direction in which our country was moving, and she wanted to do something to help. She was calling her senator, but she felt that wasn't enough.

A few weeks later, I found out about a new local café, 1951 Coffee Company, that provides jobs and training for newly arrived refugees. At a time when the nation was debating a controversial White House plan to ban Syrian refugees and close our borders to people from six mostly Muslim countries, the cafe's welcoming and affirmative mission struck a chord. One morning, I stopped in, had a great cup of coffee, and asked how the owners would feel about a community fundraiser to support their work.

The café owners were game, and so I emailed my friend and several neighbors to try and put together a fundraising committee. My friend ended up leading the group, and a neighbor who lives across the street solicited in-kind donations for the event. My brother's mother-in-law even got involved. The outpouring of support from many walks of life — PTA parents, professors, scientists, new volunteers, first-time donors — was truly amazing.

In the end, the May fundraiser attracted nearly two hundred people and netted over $37,000 for the café's work. It was a modern-day community barn raising.

Marches…and More

Given the considerable threats today to the causes and priorities that so many of us care so deeply about, it is easy to get discouraged and down. But the story of this small café gives me hope. At a time when so much is on the line, people are stepping out of their comfort zones and becoming more involved in our democracy. We are marching, participating in spur-of-the-moment protests, volunteering, giving money, and contacting our elected representatives — all in unprecedented numbers, and all in an effort to show we’re paying attention and we care.

In conversations with leaders of our nonprofit partner organizations, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund's staff is hearing a similar refrain. Many organizations are experiencing a flood of new donations and volunteers and offers to help. And perhaps the best news is the groundswell of grassroots action is getting results.

  • Mass protests and accompanying lawsuits sidelined the White House's ban on refugees from six mostly Muslim countries; a weakened (though still-alarming) ban is in effect pending a final Supreme Court decision in the fall.
  • The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program providing temporary relief from deportation for undocumented young people remains intact because of a wave of popular support from all sides of the political spectrum.
  • Congressional plans to strip health coverage from millions of vulnerable people face a steep uphill climb, thanks largely to a flood of constituents who have been writing to Congress and showing up at townhall meetings and Fourth of July parades to register their concern.

Granted, there are still plenty of policies and executive actions that are posing huge challenges for immigrants, LGBT people, low-income children, and other vulnerable populations and communities. But the heightened level of grassroots activism and engagement we’re seeing makes me hopeful — and confident — that the values of fairness, equality, and opportunity ultimately will win the day.

New Allies, New Strategies

It's not just that community members across the nation are getting involved and making their voices heard. Among the other signs of hope:

  • New and powerful allies are stepping forward to make their opinions known. Consider the tech industry’s powerful advocacy against the refugee travel ban.
  • People and organizations increasingly are working together across movements to build powerful coalitions. Consider the work of the Million Voters Project, a Haas, Jr. Fund-supported initiative that unites local and regional organizations working with Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans and immigrants to get out the vote in 2018.
  • Allies are developing innovative strategies and are taking their work to new levels of scale and impact. For example, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II has turned his "Moral Monday" protests (which started in North Carolina) into a national movement to advance "the good of the whole."

Even as we are inspired by the new wave of activism we’re seeing, it's important to remember that our work today is founded on the same fundamental principles that have guided social movements in the past. The bottom line is that "We the People" need to stand up and use our voices — and our votes — to make a difference. That’s the only way real change happens, and it will require deep investments in community organizing, civic participation, movement-building, and leadership development.

I know these are precarious times for many communities across the country. And I understand that we can't be complacent or overly confident in the face of an onslaught of regressive policies out of Washington and many state capitals.

But from a little café here in the Bay Area to the National Mall in Washington to the streets and sidewalks of so many cities and towns where social justice organizations are organizing and attracting new supporters, there is something very powerful happening out there across the land. It's democracy in action, and it’s an inspiring thing to see.

Headshot_cathy_chaCathy Cha is vice president of programs at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (June 2017)

July 05, 2017

Don't know if you all agree, but it's unanimous here at PND: Whoever invented the four-day weekend deserves a medal. We've got a busy July lined up, but before we get too far into it, we figured this would be a good time to look back at the blog content you found especially interesting in June, including new posts by Rotary International's John Hewko, Battalia Winston's Susan Medina, DataViz for Nonprofit's Amelia Kohm, regular contributor Kathryn Pyle, and the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University. Enjoy!

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

Funders Taking on Mass Deportation and Mass Incarceration

June 28, 2017

Statue_of_liberty_blogMany in philanthropy are willing to stand up to the Trump administration's actions targeting immigrants and refugees. Recently, more than two hundred grantmakers signed a joint letter opposing those actions, and many foundations have ramped up their rapid response and long-term giving for everything from legal services and community organizing to policy advocacy and litigation.

But the crisis facing immigrant communities across the country demands much more from philanthropy — in particular, that we step out of our funding and programmatic silos and consider how immigration is integrally connected to so many other issues we care about as funders. One such issue is criminal justice reform.

It is no secret that the United States maintains the largest immigrant detention system in the world. At last count, we were holding more than four hundred thousand immigrants in jails and prisons — including numerous for-profit facilities. This is the equivalent of putting the entire population of Oakland, California, behind bars. In the overwhelming majority of cases, immigrants in detention are asylum seekers, lawful permanent residents, and others who come here seeking the promise of freedom and a better life for themselves and their families. Instead, they have been tragically caught up in our nation's broken immigration system.

Under the Trump administration's rapidly expanding detention and deportation machine, immigrants are under attack as never before. Arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased by nearly 40 percent since Trump took office, while fewer than 9 percent of those arrested by ICE since January had convictions for violent crimes. In fact, research consistently shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans. Nevertheless, the Trump administration is demonizing immigrant communities, stepping up its rhetoric and media manipulation to scapegoat immigrants and label them as being inherently criminal.

Undocumented immigrants who come into contact with law enforcement are punished twice — once by the criminal justice system and the second time by the immigration system — all without the protection of the minimal rights and due process available to others caught up in the justice system. Indeed, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, for undocumented immigrants, contact with law enforcement "brings with it disproportionately harsh immigration consequences" ranging "from incarceration in immigration detention and banishment from the country to denial of future immigration benefits to individuals and their family members."

The arbitrary and harsh treatment of so many immigrants by law enforcement is representative of the larger systemic failures of the U.S. criminal justice system. The criminalization of immigrants and people of color in our country is the product of "tough on crime" laws adopted in the 1980s, '90s, and early 2000s. Among the most harmful of these laws was the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which opened the door to expedited removal, harsh penalties, and mandatory detention for immigrants swept up by law enforcement. This and other laws criminalizing immigrants followed the blueprint of broader criminal justice measures passed in the 1980s and '90s, all resulting in the mass incarceration of people of color. Today, our country's criminal justice system continues to place a big target squarely on the backs of immigrant communities and communities of color.

The good news is that immigrant rights leaders and criminal justice advocates from around the country are increasingly working to fight the over-criminalization of our communities. Recognizing that the system fails immigrants and other vulnerable communities by equal measure, grassroots groups are joining together to organize and build powerful intersectional coalitions aimed at ending mass criminalization, deportation, and incarceration. For example, it was a coalition of immigration and criminal justice reform advocates that created the momentum for enactment of California's TRUST Act in 2014. This groundbreaking law limits local law enforcement collaboration with ICE across the state. Today, coalitions of criminal justice and immigrants' rights advocacy groups are fighting to end the use of money bail in states across the country and to realize other common sense reforms that will benefit immigrants and other communities of color alike.

Addressing the enormous failures of our immigration and criminal justice systems means standing up for American principles of due process and equal justice for all. This should be something that all of philanthropy can support. We applaud the many foundations across the country that are making investments in criminal justice or immigrant rights — or both. The intersection of these two issues — and their life-and-death consequences for so many people — demands that we catch up with the courageous advocates who are leading the way and break out of the silos that so often constrain our grantmaking.

How can foundations simultaneously work on both criminal justice and immigration (or "crim-immigration")? We can seed and support collaborative efforts undertaken by advocates in the two fields. We can convene grantees working across these issues to develop shared agendas and to explore the intersections of their work. We can strategize with other funders about how best to align our "crim-imm" investments. We can explore public-private partnerships with state and local governments to protect the rights of immigrants and people of color who are caught up in the immigration enforcement and criminal justice systems. We can fight back against the narrative that paints immigrants as criminals and instead lift up who they really are — our neighbors, family members, and friends who add tremendous value to our country and our communities.

There are myriad possibilities for funder action, and it all begins with building our knowledge and understanding of the connections between these two issues. Let's work together to protect and advance our common values of inclusion, freedom, opportunity, and justice — for all. 

Tim_silard_for_PhilanTopicTimothy P. Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation.

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.

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to prefer for a moment the latter. But I should mean that every man should recieve those papers and be capable of reading them...."

    — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

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