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10 posts categorized "Religion"

The Transparent Spend Down

September 23, 2013

The following post by Charles R. Bronfman, chairman of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), is the first in a new blog series, "Making Change by Spending Down," produced by ACBP in partnership with GrantCraft, a joint service of the Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre. In the post, Mr. Bronfman explains how he, his late wife, Andrea, and ACBP president Jeffrey Solomon arrived at the decision to spend down the foundation by 2016; why he and Solomon decided to take extra steps to create transparency around the spend-down process; and what they hope the added measure of transparency will accomplish.

We welcome your comments on this and every post in the series and encourage you to discuss and/or share individual posts on Twitter using the #spenddown hashtag. To learn more about the project, visit the GrantCraft Web site.

*****

My parents were my greatest mentors. They taught me the meaning of philanthropy through their active involvement in many causes. Creating initiatives to address social, cultural and community needs now, and facilitating positive change for the future, were and remain my guiding principles.

Those principles became the foundation for The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, which my late wife, Andy, and I established in 1985. All along, we believed in creating programs with long-lasting effect and which could and would make a real difference in the world.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, after doing our homework about foundations created in perpetuity, Andy; Jeff Solomon, the president of our foundation; and I decided that ACBP should fulfill its mandate. While several other foundations had chosen this course, we decided to keep our decision to ourselves. But as more foundations chose to be time-limited and publicly announced their decision, we decided to go public with ours in 2008.

In an open letter to the philanthropic community three years later, Jeff Solomon and I announced that we would spend down ACBP by 2016.

That's not news anymore. What is, though, is the transparency we vowed to establish around the spend-down process, a conscious effort to share our experiences -- expected and not, good and bad -- on the road to 2016.

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Ten Years Later: Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York

September 10, 2011

Vartan_gregorian_centennial We had hoped, as part of our "Ten Years Later" series, to share the 9/11 reflections of Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. (You can read our earlier interviews with Gregorian here and here.) Unfortunately, Dr. Gregorian was busy with 9/11 commemorative events and his responsibilities as a member of the 9/11 Memorial board.

However, the folks at Carnegie did graciously allow us to reprint an essay written by Dr. Gregorian that appeared in the September/October issue of World Affairs. We hope you enjoy it.

_________________

It is still shocking to remember how utterly the peace of that beautiful September day was shattered. The image of the Twin Towers as they fell to earth, carrying with them so many souls, became the collective symbol of our grief. After all, the World Trade Center towers were the icon of American strength and economic power and emblematic of New York City as a world capital of finance.

It was possible, that day, to believe that the towering strength of our nation was itself, in some fundamental way, at risk. But that did not prove to be so. The cowardly attacks that we endured, which did not distinguish between people of different races, ethnicities, faiths, or beliefs, did not divide us but instead forged stronger bonds between us. And nowhere was the indivisibility of those bonds more evident than at the memorial service at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on September 23.

Prior to that service, most Americans had seen or taken part in religious ceremonies particular to their own faith, be it Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or other. But it is probably fair to say that most Americans had never seen or heard a Muslim cleric, let alone a group of Muslim imams taking part in an ecumenical service. On September 23, however, that is exactly what happened. I was watching the service on television, and as the rabbis, priests, ministers, and other members of the clergy made deeply moving and heartfelt remarks, I found myself greatly affected by their words. Still, it was with a mounting sense of apprehension that I waited to hear what would happen when Muslim clerics came to the podium to speak. As I waited for the first of them to utter the first words of prayer in Arabic, my heart, as they say, was in my mouth. I thought that members of the victims’ families, as well as others in the audience, might send the imams off the stage amid a flurry of catcalls. They did not. Everyone present listened with the same attention and respect as had been accorded the representatives of all the other religions. The dignity and solemnity of the day was unbroken. The memory of those who had died was uniformly held in reverence because it was understood by every individual at Yankee Stadium that day, and the millions watching and listening elsewhere, that the terrorists had targeted all of us who happened to be on American soil the morning of September 11. They recognized no differences between us. They spared no one based on class or race or nationality, or even religion.

Those who spoke at the "Prayer for America" service were eloquent in expressing how, as Americans, we are one people sharing one ideal of peace and solidarity. Imam Izak-El Mu'eed Pasha, who was the first Muslim chaplain of the New York City Police Department, said, "We, Muslims, Americans, stand today with a heavy weight on our shoulders that those who would dare do such dastardly acts claim our faith. They are no believers in God at all....We condemn them and their cowardly acts, and we stand with our country against all that would come against us."

Edward Egan, then the archbishop of New York, said, "Almighty and eternal father, we are gathered here as your people and your children....We need courage to deal with our pain, we need justice to deal with the evil doers who have harmed us so fiercely. We need faith, wisdom and strength of soul for ourselves, each and every one."

Rabbi Marc Gellman, the senior rabbi of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, New York, said, "The Talmud and the African tribe, the Maasai tribe, both teach a wisdom for our wounded world. They both taught sticks alone can be broken by a child, but sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. The fears and sorrows of this moment are so heavy, they can break us if we try to bear them alone. But if we are bundled together, if we stick together, we are unbreakable."

Calvin Butts, the noted pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, said -- simply and powerfully -- "Be not afraid. Together we will get through [this], because we are the United States of America."

As an Armenian Christian born in Iran, I am aware of the historical vulnerability of ethnic and religious minorities. Hence, as I watched the service, I found myself thinking that I could not imagine such a peaceful, even loving coming together of different peoples and groups if the terrorist attacks of 9/11 had taken place in the Middle East or Africa, or Eastern Europe, or Asia. In those regions, nationalist and religious fervor would have likely led to atrocities visited upon those who happened to share the faith of the perpetrators of such attacks. Imagine if the attacks had been carried out in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Kenya, or Sudan. We have already seen the kinds of horrendous reprisals that have sometimes followed acts of sectarian violence in those countries and others.

But thank God that is not the path we followed. On September 23, watching the service at Yankee Stadium, I felt that I was bearing witness to a maturing of America. I saw an educated citizenry sharing the common experience of almost unspeakable loss, unbearable pain. I saw intelligent men and women who understood the historical significance of the heartbreaking events they were memorializing, and who did not want those who had attacked us to succeed in dividing our nation or weakening our resolve to go forward, to go on.

I also saw America as a mature political power, with resolute and steady leaders such as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and President George W. Bush, with the entire bipartisan New York delegation and all members of Congress standing behind them. On that day, the entire political leadership of America acted as one. There were no Democrats or Republicans, no Independents or Libertarians. They were all Americans. And as Americans, they transcended their ideological differences in order to honor the victims of our national tragedy.

President Bush, among many others, continued to reflect about the meaning of 9/11, forcefully declaring that "Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil." He made those remarks to airline employees at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on September 27, 2001, but this was a concept he repeated many times over, in many venues, in many different ways. In the days following 9/11, President Bush also visited several mosques to reinforce the idea that Muslim Americans were an integral part of American society and that indeed, their faith and support were a critical component of the struggle against terrorism. The president made this clear on September 17, 2001, at the Washington Islam Center mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the United States, when he read this verse from the Koran: "In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule."

It was during this time that I stumbled across a sermon by C. S. Lewis. This was purely coincidence, but a comforting and uplifting one. The sermon is called "Learning in Wartime" and was delivered in the autumn of 1939 when Britain stood alone against the Nazis. Among the most evocative passages in the sermon are these extraordinary words: "I think it is important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun....[People] propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss poetry while advancing on the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature."

I sent copies of this sermon to my friends and to my colleagues, hoping that it helped them, as it helped me, to regain my feeling of optimism about our nation and our future. That is because indeed, it is in the nature of men and women to look ahead, past the darkest of times, to the brighter days that always follow. All of human history is a play of light and darkness. And through all of human history, we travel together through the longest night into the dawn.

-- Vartan Gregorian

NYC's 'Neighborhood of Conscience'

August 20, 2010

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his last post, he wrote about African philanthropy.)

Cordoba_house Lower Manhattan is many things to many people: hub of global finance, a mosaic of ethnic enclaves, funky residential neighborhood with breath-taking views of New York harbor, and, of course, backdrop for the most devastating of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But thanks to a series of unrelated real estate transactions over the years, it has also emerged as the world's first "neighborhood of conscience." That term was coined in the 1990s after the Rockefeller Foundation invited a seemingly disparate group of nonprofit visionaries to its conference center in Bellagio, Italy -- a group that included the leadership of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City, Russia's Gulag Museum, and the District 6 Museum in South Africa, among others.

At that meeting, these nonprofits found common cause: a shared commitment to relating the past to the present, building "lasting cultures of human rights," and engaging "ordinary people in dialogue on social issues...through the establishment of sites [of conscience]."

In recognition of its importance, the sites of conscience movement has attracted the support of a number of foundations and philanthropies over the years, including the Compton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Oak Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

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TED on Sunday: Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

August 23, 2009

In this funny and inspirational talk, writer Elizabeth Gilbert (The Last American Man, Eat, Pray Love) considers the creative act and wonders why it is logical or okay "that anyone should be afraid to do the work they were put on this earth to do?" Ranging widely from ancient Greece and Rome through the Renaissance to hipster songwriter/performer Tom Waits stuck in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway, Gilbert argues convincingly that the secret to creativity is showing up to do your job and accepting the idea that the extraordinary nature of your best work didn't come from you; it was given to you. (Filmed: February 2009; Running time: 19:29)

Liked this talk? Try one of these:

And for those who can't get enough of TED, check out Jim Simpson's post about a cool hidden feature of most TED Talks.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Fallout From Madoff Scandal Spreads

December 15, 2008

BernardmadoffOver the weekend, we learned that at least two foundations, the Robert I. Lappin Foundation and the Chais Family Foundation, had lost millions in Bernie Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme and were closing their doors, effective immediately.

The latest victim of the scam is the New York City-based JEHT Foundation (an acronym for Justice, Equality, Human dignity and Tolerance), which earlier today announced that it was halting all grantmaking effective immediately and would shut its doors at the end of January. The foundation has posted a statement on its Web site that reads in part:

The JEHT Foundation Board deeply regrets that the important work that the Foundation has undertaken over the years is ending so abruptly. The issues the Foundation addressed received very limited philanthropic support and the loss of the foundation's funding and leadership will cause significant pain and disruption of the work for many dedicated people and organizations. The Foundation's programs have met with significant success in recent years -- promoting change in these critical areas in partnership with government and the nonprofit sector. Hopefully others will look closely at this work and consider supporting it going forward....

Inquiries should be directed to the foundation, care of its president, Robert Crane, rcrane@jehtfoundation.org.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Quote of the Day (December 13, 2008)

December 13, 2008

Quotemarks_2"In the twenty-first century our global society will flourish or perish according to our ability to find common ground across the world on a set of shared objectives and on the practical means to achieve them. The pressures of scarce energy resources, growing environmental stresses, a rising global population, legal and mass migration, shifting economic power, and vast inequalities of income are too great to be left to naked market forces and untrammeled geopolitical competition among nations. A clash of civilizations could well result from the rising tensions, and it could truly be our last and utterly devastating clash. To find our way peacefully through these difficulties, we will have to learn, on a global scale, the same core lessons that successful societies have gradually and grudgingly learned within their own national borders...."

-- Jeffrey Sachs, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

The Stock Market and Charitable Giving

October 20, 2008

A week or so ago, Pattie Johnson, the director of the Foundation Center's Atlanta field office, forwarded me a series of interesting charts put together by Alexander Haas Martin & Partners, one of the premier fundraising consulting firms in the metro Atlanta area. Using data collected by the folks at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the charts attempt to answer the question: "How will the problems in the stock market impact total charitable (as opposed to foundation) giving?"

The first chart (below) maps total giving in the U.S. from 1967-2007 against the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a widely followed proxy for stock market performance, over the same period.

(click on chart for larger image)

Giving_vs_dow_page_1_600px_4 

And this chart shows giving mapped against the S&P 500, another widely followed proxy for the market:

(click on chart for larger image)

Giving_vs_sp_page_1_600px_2

As David King, managing partner at AMMP notes, the charts show that when the markets are going up, total charitable giving grows right along with it -- which makes sense. However, they also show that when the stock market declines, giving does NOT follow it; indeed, it continues to grow or holds steady.

Granted, no two economic downturns are alike, and the current one could turn out to be far more serious and prolonged than those of the recent past (2000-02, 1990-91, 1980-82). Unfortunately, we won't know how bad it will be -- or was -- until we're already well on the road to recovery. In the meantime, this should give some comfort to people who are expecting the sky to fall. Yes, we've seen wealth destruction on an epic scale over the last twelve months, but we also saw wealth creation on an even grander scale over the last five-plus years. Let's hope a good portion of that wealth continues to flow to worthy nonprofits and charities.

To download additional charts comparing both the Dow and S&P 500 to giving to arts/culture, education, religion, human services, health, and the environment, click here for the Dow and here for the S&P.

-- Mitch Nauffts

CGI University (Day One) -- A.M. Working Session

March 15, 2008

Cgiu_logo2_4

("Live posts listed in reverse chron order; read from bottom up.)

12:45 p.m.: Breakout sessions over, panelists back with answers to three questions:

1. How do you keep students motivated when they see little evidence of change happening?

Stephanie Nyombayire: You have to remember that change will come, even if it comes slowly. Don't forget to list your accomplishments, however small, on a regular basis. And don't forget to thank people for their good work and participation.

Courtney Spence: Keep your eyes on the goal. And don't forget about the people coming up behind you -- think of it as a relay race.

2. What advice can you give students tackling issues too large to have easy solutions but too important to ignore?

Stephanie Nyombayire: You have to believe in your cause -- that's the starting point. After that, the Big Three are: Educate, Advocate, Fundraise

Courtney Spence: Advice from dad -- "You get to be big by thinking small"

Gideon Yago: Be encouraged that America truly is the world's melting pot.

3. With so many organizations already doing good work, how do you know whether to join an existing effort or to launch something new?

Stephanie Nyombayire: If you don't see something happening, then you know it's up to you to make it happen. If you think yu can invent a better mousetrap, go ahead and do it. Regardless, don't forget to work with others.

Eboo Patel: The "hardship-to-hero ratio" in starting any organization is at least 100-to-1 -- and your parents are sure to give you hell. If you are meant to start an organization, you must do it. But if you do start an organization, be sure to network it.

-----

And, except for announcements of additional commitments, that wraps it up for the morning. The afternoon working sessions are scheduled to start at 4:30 (ET), but it doesn't look like they'll be Webcast.

Hope you enjoyed our little experiment. Back tomorrow with the weekend roundup.

12:05  p.m.: After Yago, the moderator, gives the panelists a chance to talk about their organizations and why they were drawn to social-change work, he poses the "how" question. How do you do this kind of work? How do you get started and how do you sustain it? Here, briefly, is their advice:

Stephanie Nyombayire:

  1. Seek out information
  2. Enlist support of fellow students
  3. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint -- "Arm yourself with patience and persistence"

Eboo Patel: Think like a social entrepreneur ("Somebody who turns an idea for social change into reality"); look for the patterns underlying a persistent problem and, as Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus did, figure out a way to alter those patterns.

Courtney Spence:

  1. Don't be afraid to talk to -- to talk with -- anyone; it doesn't have to be about anything specific. Be a sponge. Make connections.
  2. Yes, you have to be in it for the long haul and focus on the end result. But you also have to take the time to enjoy the journey, because in the end it's all about the journey.

Good advice. Next up, working groups in which the What? question will be addressed. The webcast will resume in twenty minutes.

11:45 a.m.: As I supected, blogging the concurrent working sessions is going to be impossible. (At the big annual CGI event, the Clinton folks provide simultaneous closed-circuit feeds of all working sessions for the media.) So I've decided to "attend" the peace & human rights session, "Building Peace on Campus and Beyond," in part because, as panel moderator Gideo Yago, a journalist, says: Peace and conflict resolution is "the most difficult" of all the topics tol be discussed at CGI U.

In addition to Yago, the panelists are:

  • Stephanie Nyombayire, Swarthmore senior and spokesperson, Genocide Intervention Network
  • Eboo Patel, Ph.D., founder/executive director, Interfaith Youth Core
  • Courtney Spence, founder/president, Students of the World

-- Mitch Nauffts

Tax-Exempt for What and for Whom?

December 19, 2007

That's the question John J. DiIulio Jr. asks near the end of his article, "Non-Profits Without Honor," in the Dec. 10 issue of The Weekly Standard. You might remember DiIulio as the person tasked with selling George Bush's faith-based initiative to a skeptical public in the early, pre-9/11 days of the first Bush administration. The initiative itself never really made it out of the starting gate, and DiIulio resigned his position after only seven months on the job.

Well, he's back, and he has a book to flog (Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America's Faith-Based Future). DiIulio's chief complaint, in both book and article, is that "government routinely confers diverse public subsidies on nonprofit organizations that follow the law's letter while doing only incidental things to benefit their communities or the public at large."

He's especially critical of nonprofit hospitals and private colleges and universities, which occupy "land and buildings that generate zero local property tax revenue" and benefit from "myriad" government subsidies. To support his argument, he cites his hometown of Philadelphia, which by his estimate forgoes $90 million a year in property taxes from tax-exempt colleges and universities.

(The issue of nonprofit property tax exemptions is examined in detail by Rick Cohen in his most recent article for The Nonprofit Quarterly.)

What really bothers DiIulio, however, is the fact that religious congregations and faith-based organizations -- which, he notes, provide "scores of socially useful services to non-members" -- are excluded in most cases from applying for government grants and loans. And that's not only unfair, he says, its discriminatory. "The key nonprofit distinction," he adds, "is not religious or secular, large or small, national or local. It's who really serves disadvantaged members, non-members, or the public at large, how, and how much. [Therefore] it is time to consider revamping federal, state, and local laws governing nonprofit organizations so as to restrict full-fledged tax-exempt status to organizations that predictably and reliably produce significant non-member benefits."

Leaving aside the impracticality of such an idea (who would define -- and enforce -- the standards against which tax-exempt organizations and the social benefit they provide are evaluated?), we've seen this movie before -- and it ended badly. DiIulio is a smart man and a respected researcher. But his is an idea whose time has passed. In an age of global competition -- and global threats -- Americans want more from the nonprofit sector than services that only address the symptoms of existing social problems. Yes, those services are vitally important, and we're not suggesting that the sector doesn't have a role in their provision. But our sector is about much, much more than social service provision. And we would all be poorer if that were to change.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

October 08, 2007

Templeton_logo_sm Don't know how many of you saw the two-page Templeton Foundation spread in the Week in Review section of yesterday's New York Times (print edition only), but I was struck by both its subject matter and what it must have cost. It's not unusual to see an ad purchased by a global oil company or large multinational displayed prominently within the op-ed/commentary section of the Times, but I can't ever recall seeing a two-page spread from a private foundation -- let alone one devoted to a discussion of metaphysics. As for cost, based on figures that surfaced after last month's MoveOn.org/"General Betray Us" controversy, I'm guessing the Templeton folks spent upwards of $250,000 on the ad -- not a lot for ExxonMobil, perhaps, but a good chunk of change all the same.

The ad presents excerpts from what it calls a series of conversations about the "big questions" -- everything from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity. In 54-point type, it poses the question, "Does the universe have a purpose?" and then presents the wide-ranging views of leading scientists and scholars -- people like Elie Wiesel, Jane Goodall, the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the essayist and computer scientist David Gelertner, and the cosmologist Paul Davies. In an age increasingly characterized by reductionist views of complex problems, it's a heartfelt and strangely old-fashioned attempt to promote dialogue and understanding between two seemingly irreconcilable world views, science and religion.

Oh, and if you're keeping score, the dozen essayists responded to the question with three "yeses," two "no's," an "unlikely," a "very likely," one "certainly," one "not sure," an "indeed," a "perhaps," and one "I hope so."

To read the essays in their entirety and/or to learn more about the authors, go here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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