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More Foundations Respond to Economic Crisis: Gates, California Endowment, Otto Bremer, Rasmuson

November 26, 2008

More statements from U.S. foundations in response to the financial crisis and deteriorating economic situation....

Gates_logoThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the nation's largest, has released a statement from CEO Jeff Raikes in response to the economic crisis. In it, Raikes promises that the foundation will:

Stay focused on our issues
We’ll stay focused on the core set of issues where we think we can do the most good: increasing opportunity in the United States -- primarily through education -- and improving health and fighting extreme poverty in developing countries. Within these areas, we'll continue to follow the evidence. We will make grants in the areas where the data tell us we have the best chance to make the greatest impact.

Grow our payout
We are planning to grow our payout in 2009 by about 10%. This is lower than previously planned, but represents the commitment of our co-chairs' and leadership to our mission during a difficult time.

Keep operating costs low
We have always tried to be great stewards of the resources that have been entrusted to us. Even as we work to make sure that every grant dollar goes as far as possible, we also strive to keep our operational costs low. I have asked our employees to reduce expenses wherever possible, and we are closely scrutinizing our budget.

Continue learning
There's still a lot we don’t know about the effects of the economic downturn. How will it affect the budgets of the cities, states, and nations that we work with? What about multilateral organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, and what about the businesses whose innovations are critical to improving people's lives? We are working with all of our partners to understand these issues better in the coming weeks and months.

Click here for the complete statement.

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Tce_logo_4The California Endowment has released the following statement:

Like many other philanthropic organizations, we are not immune from the effects of Wall Street's woes. The current volatility on Wall Street has caused us to lose a sizable portion of our investments and assets. In response to this challenge, our Board of Directors and senior management team have spent considerable time in recent weeks deliberating on an appropriate and timely response. Of greatest concern to us is the impact that the stock market and the troubled economy will have on working and low-income individuals, families and underserved communities -- as well as the nonprofit organizations that serve them.

In response to the current economic climate we are announcing the following:

  • All current grant commitments and current-year grantmaking levels will be honored and upheld.
  • Grantmaking levels for our coming fiscal year (beginning March of 2009 for us) will not be reduced from our existing multiyear spending plan -- although we will seek reductions in our administrative costs.
  • Early in 2009, we will announce a funding response to address immediate needs for those hardest hit by the economic downturn, as well as additional resources for advocacy organizations, in anticipation of the high demand for services faced by community-based nonprofits.
  • We remain committed to the implementation of our new 10-Year Strategic Plan of Building Healthy Communities.

Click here for the complete statement.

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The Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation has released this statement from board chair Edward B. Rasmuson and president/CEO Diane Kaplan:

In 2001, the Rasmuson Foundation began receiving significant assets from the estate of Elmer Rasmuson. Since then, the Foundation has prioritized both creating responsive programming to meet the needs of Alaskans and diversifying the investment of those assets which are necessary to provide the funding.

By now, everyone is well aware of this year's unprecedented economic challenges. The conditions are unlike those experienced during our lifetime. Everyone -- individuals, families, nonprofits, businesses, governments, Alaska's Permanent Fund and foundations -- has been financially impacted. As long-term investors, we believe that time will restore value.

In the short-term, many have asked "how is the Foundation doing"? While our approach to diversification has, to an extent, softened the impacts of today's market, we too have sustained losses. In response, we are working diligently to minimize the impact on Alaska's nonprofit sector over the long-term. As such, until the markets stabilize, one might expect to see fewer and smaller awards, but no major changes in our commitments or programs.

Rest assured that our commitment to our partners and Alaska remains unchanged. We know that during times like these, our nonprofit partners are under great pressure to deliver basic services or to provide uplifting experiences through cultural and recreational opportunities. As always, we are inspired, guided and sustained by the notion that "helping others is an Alaskan tradition"

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And the St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Foundation, in partnership with Bremer Bank, has announced the creation of an Emergency Fund "to provide grants of up to $100,000 to nonprofit organizations with the capacity to identify community members who can benefit from financial assistance, provide timely disbursements, and offer appropriate follow-up and referral services."

Grants will be made to organizations whose beneficiaries are residents of the Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin communities served by Bremer Bank. The application outlines the proposal information needed and the criteria used to review proposals. The application deadline is December 15.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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