327 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

Philanthropy's Under-Investment in Holding High Finance Accountable: A Gamble We Can’t Afford

October 17, 2018

Monopoly_top_hatTen years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, authorizing $700 billion in federal funding to buy troubled assets from banks deemed to be in danger of failing as a result of the subprime foreclosure crisis.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing has remained the same: progressive philanthropy continues to under-prioritize efforts to hold the financial industry accountable.

It's a choice that risks undermining the headway progressive foundations are making on issues of inequality and wealth building. Placing big bets on policies designed to lift up low- and moderate-income communities while failing to address the accountability of financial institutions is a gamble we cannot afford to take — not least because it puts at risk the very people we are trying to serve.

American households lost $16 trillion in wealth in the years after the 2007-08 financial crisis. And while some experts estimate that Americans have regained $14.6 trillion, or 91 percent, of those losses in the decade since, the collapse affected different segments of society unequally, with the gains just as unequally distributed. In other words, both the crash and the recovery increased inequality in America.

The impact on African Americans was especially profound. Nearly 8 percent of African-American homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the years after the crisis, compared with only 4.5 percent of white homeowners, and between 2007 and 2010 African Americans saw their retirement accounts lose 35 percent of their value. Indeed, according to the National Association of Realtors, African Americans lost fully half their wealth as a result of the financial crisis.

It's not just the likelihood of future financial crises that should give philanthropic leaders pause; it's also the fact that an under-regulated and unaccountable financial industry will continue to target communities of color and low-income communities with sketchy products and put vulnerable households at risk.

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On 'Fake' Victories and the Need to Act

August 02, 2018

American-Poverty-768x512While no one would argue that Donald Trump is a student of history, he and other Republicans seem to have taken a lesson from a former "dean" of the Senate, George Aiken (R-VT), who was alleged to have said of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that we should simply "declare victory and get out." How else to explain the things Trump and Republican politicians are doing to "address" poverty in America?

Most of us have learned that the president, members of his administration, and his congressional allies are adept at creating "alternative facts" through exaggeration, misrepresentation, and plain old dissembling. After a one-day summit meeting in June with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un generated nothing in the way of detailed policy agreements, Trump declared that the North Korean nuclear threat had been eliminated. (Real-world developments subsequently invalidated the president’s assertions.) Similarly, at an extraordinary press conference following an unprecedented private meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the president dismissed the consensus view of American intelligence agencies that Russia was actively working to undermine our electoral and democratic processes and declared that no such threat exists. And now the president is focusing his magical-thinking act on the home front.

In July, the Trump administration declared "victory" in the War on Poverty — the unofficial name for a series of federal initiatives introduced in the 1960s by the Johnson administration to help people move out of poverty and provide assistance to those in need — and declared that poverty in the United States was no longer a problem the federal government need worry about. The administration's declaration was stunning on two counts: Republicans have a long history of opposing the War on Poverty, and poverty remains a huge problem in America.

Established measures of poverty show that in 2016 about 12.7 percent of Americans — roughly 43 million people — lived in poverty. And a recent United Nations study found that 18.5 million Americans are facing "extreme impoverishment." In fact, close to 2 percent of the population – more than 5 million of us — live on no more than $4 a day, including government assistance. Even more alarming, more than a few moderate-income Americans are included in a Federal Reserve study which found that 40 percent of us would not be able to cover an unexpected $400 expense without having to sell something or borrow the money.

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Every Person Counts: Why Philanthropy Must Help Save the Census

July 31, 2018

2020_censusIn philanthropic circles, when we talk about protecting democratic institutions and values we often focus on expanding voting rights, improving representation, and connecting impoverished communities with the resources they need. However, all these issues — and many others — are tied to another fundamental pillar of American democracy: the decennial census.

Every decade since 1790, the government has counted the American population, as mandated by the Constitution. While it took the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure that all people were counted equally, the census has nonetheless performed an essential role in maintaining and improving our democracy. Today, our country uses census data to apportion congressional representation; to draw federal, state, and local legislative districts; and to enforce civil rights laws. Businesses use census data to decide where to open, offer jobs, and provide goods and services. The census helps cities and states identify locations for large infrastructure projects like schools, senior centers, public transportation, hospitals, and police services. It determines how roughly $700 billion in federal funds in 2015 were distributed and allocated to programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and Section 8 housing.

If the 2020 census yields inaccurate data, programs like these — and the people who depend on them — will be in serious jeopardy. Projects may be deprived of crucial funding and entire communities denied fair representation in government. In other words, the consequences of a poorly conducted census will ripple through the public and private sectors, and through civil society, for at least the next ten years.

Unfortunately, there are mounting challenges to achieving a fair, accurate, and complete census in 2020.

The Census Bureau notes that certain populations — people of color, young children, and rural households among them — have been undercounted historically. On top of that, Census Bureau researchin 2017 revealed that the current political climate could further discourage census participation. According to the bureau's own Center for Survey Management, concerns about data sharing and privacy are growing, "particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants," which in turn could have a "disproportionate impact on hard-to-count populations."

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A Conversation With Ana Marie Argilagos, President/CEO, Hispanics in Philanthropy

July 24, 2018

It has not been a happy twelve months for Latino communities in the United States.

In September, President Donald Trump announced that he planned to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program within six months. Then in January, nearly two hundred thousand Salvadorans who have lived in the United States for more than a decade under a program known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) learned that the administration would be rescinding their protected status. To the dismay of many, that announcement foreshadowed a stepped-up spring campaign by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents against undocumented immigrants — most of them brown, many of them Latino — a campaign that culminated in June with a Department of Justice announcement of a new "zero tolerance" policy that has led to the separation of immigrant children from their parents seeking asylum at the southern border.

Since its founding in 1983, Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) has worked to strengthen Latino equity, leadership, and voice and build a more equal and prosperous America and Latin America. It does that by bringing national foundations, local donors, advocates, and academics together to identify the most pressing issues affecting Latino communities, work toward shared goals, and strengthen the capacity of the Latino nonprofit sector.

In January, Ana Marie Argilagos joined HIP as its new president, succeeding Diana Campoamor, who retired at the end of 2017 after twenty-six years with the organization. In two conversations, one earlier this year and a more recent exchange, PND spoke with Argilagos about the Trump administration’s immigration policies and actions, the things she heard from HIP members during a recent listening tour, and her plans for the organization as she settles into her new role.

Before joining HIP, Argilagos was a senior advisor at the Ford Foundation, where her work focused on urban development strategies to reduce poverty, expand economic opportunity, and advance sustainability in cities and regions across the world. Prior to that, she served as deputy chief of staff and deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where she created the Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation, and spent eight years as a senior program officer at the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she spearheaded the foundation’s work in rural areas, indigenous communities, and the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Headshot_ana_marie_argilagosPhilanthropy News Digest: Since President Trump assumed office, he has taken lots of actions that have impacted the Latino community, and immigrants in particular — from rescinding Temporary Protected Status for two hundred thousand Salvadorans, to putting the status of DREAMers in jeopardy, to criminalizing immigrants crossing the border and separating children from parents. What has been your reaction to the administration's policies?

Ana Marie Argilagos: It breaks my heart. Dehumanizing immigrants is only dehumanizing us as a nation. Ripping kids away from their parents will have long-term and devastating impacts on the lives of children, on our communities, and on our nation. Families fleeing violence, survivors of domestic violence, and people seeking asylum in the United States are being punished instead of being helped. This is not the American way. This is not what Lady Liberty stands for.

And this isn't just about immigrants or Latinos. Immigrant justice is racial justice. Our country has a deep-rooted history of criminalizing people of color. The current administration's immigration enforcement efforts continue this history of punishing and criminalizing asylum seekers. It is not acceptable.

PND: Do you think the president's rhetoric has made people feel less safe?

AMA: Without a doubt. But it's critical to point out that his rhetoric doesn't just make people feel unsafe — it justifies policies and public acts of hatred. These policies and actions are making the world less safe for certain groups of people in a very real way. His rhetoric has empowered white supremacists to come out of the shadows, to hurt and even kill people of color. It also spurs the criminalization of immigrants who are crossing the border because they fear for the safety of their families and their children, has resurfaced hatred and discriminatory policies like the Muslim ban, and has resulted in the revocation of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Haitians. Immigrants, people of color, Muslims, trans people, and many other groups now feel they are living in a country that is hostile to them because of the president's own words and direct actions.

PND: Let's talk about your organization, Hispanics in Philanthropy. What do you see as its role, especially now, in this political climate?

AMA: For more than thirty-five years, HIP has worked to advocate for Latino communities across the Americas. And today, in what is certainly an historic moment for the nation and the world, we have an incredibly important role to play. I see us playing that role in three areas. First, we must act as the conscience of the philanthropic sector. We must push on foundations to do more for the Latino community — not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's necessary if we want to advance human rights, guarantee the safety of the next generation, and ensure the growth of a more democratic and prosperous society.

Second, we're leaders in recognizing Latino nonprofits. We find organizations that are doing great work, we vet them, and we shine a spotlight on them so that foundations can see — and support — them. It also keeps foundations accountable for funding diverse organizations, instead of just funding the same well-known nonprofits over and over.

Last, as a pathmaker in philanthropy, we also mobilize Latinos to invest in their own communities. We were an early innovator in this space and launched the first bilingual crowdfunding platform for social impact work in the Americas. Now we're looking for new ways to innovate and engage our community on a large scale.

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It’s Time to Invest in Youth Leaders

May 16, 2018

DCPSWalkout_AFA-1024x681In the months since the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the response of youth activists has captured the attention of the nation. What has largely gone unnoticed, however, is that across the country a dynamic youth-organizing field has emerged. Over the past twenty years, groups — many of them led by low-income young people of color — have been organizing to improve education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, and address other critical issues.

New research demonstrates that not only does youth organizing result in concrete policy changes, it also promotes positive academic, social/emotional, and civic engagement outcomes. Yet despite recent investment in youth organizing from funders like the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, overall funding remains modest. That's unfortunate, because even as a new generation demonstrates its willingness to take on some of our toughest issues, the need for investment in the leadership of young people, especially those most impacted by injustice, has never been more important.

According to the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing's National Youth Organizing Landscape Map, there are more than two hundred youth organizing groups across the country, the majority of them focused on middle and high school students of color. These groups support the development of young leaders and organize campaigns to address inequity in their communities. In Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition led the campaign to ensure a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for all students. Groups such as Communities United in Chicago, Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, and the Philadelphia Student Union have gotten their school districts to create policies that address racial disparities in school discipline, resulting in changes that have benefited hundreds of thousands of students. 

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts 2017

January 02, 2018

It's no surprise, perhaps, that the most popular item on the blog in 2017 was a post, by Michael Edwards, from 2012. Back then, the country was clawing its way back from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the future, if not exactly bright, was looking better. Two thousand-seventeen, in contrast, was...well, let's just say it was a year many would like to forget. Edwards, a former program officer at the Ford Foundation and the editor of the Transformation blog on the openDemocracy site, had agreed to write a four-part series (check out parts one, two, and four) on the Bellagio Initiative, an effort funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to produce a new framework for philanthropic and international development, and his third post had much to say about how and when, in development work, we measure, how we use and interpret the results, and who decides these things — concerns as relevant today as they were in the final year of Barack Obama's first term in office.

Of course, smart thinking and useful advice never go out of fashion — as the posts gathered below amply demonstrate. Indeed, with an administration and majorities in both chambers of Congress seemingly determined to roll back many of the progressive gains achieved over the last half-century, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs working to protect the rights of marginalized and vulnerable populations, undo the vast harm caused by a systemically biased criminal justice system, combat the corrosive effects of money on our politics, and address the existential threat posed by climate change will need all the smart thinking and useful advice they can lay their hands on. So, sit back, buckle your seat belt, and get ready for 2018. It's going to be an...interesting year.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Now More Than Ever, Foundations Need to Step Up for Democracy

December 14, 2017

Vote_counts_830_0Even before agreeing on the final details of their tax bill, Republican leaders in Congress have made it clear they hope to address the national debt — the one their bill adds a trillion dollars to over the next ten years — by cutting vital safety net programs. Indeed, the dishonest Republican plan rewards the richest one percent of American taxpayers with over 60 percent of the proposed benefits of tax "reform" while people living in poverty or who depend on Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs will lose ground. Even the elderly and the sick, as well as those whose future well-being is tied to Social Security, are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of "deficit reduction."

What can charities and philanthropy do about it? Apparently nothing, judging from the feckless efforts to protect charitable giving and the integrity of the sector during the recent tax cut battle. It's reported that nonprofit "infrastructure groups" spent over $670,000 on lobbying activities in 2017 (through September) — with little in the way of results to show for it. Additional efforts — and expenditures — by individual charities and nonprofit coalitions likewise failed to derail the regressive policy changes championed by Republicans in Congress.

It doesn't have to be that way. Charities have created little opportunity for themselves to be heard on the tax bill, and it's unlikely their collective voice could affect anything but the proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment — an action that, if not dropped from the final bill, would turn tax-exempt organizations into partisan political action groups. One hopes, however, that charities — and foundations — will learn from this depressing experience and act to better represent the public interest in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections — and beyond.

For charities and foundations to succeed in this endeavor, three things need to change: (1) public policy issues must be seen for what they really are; (2) charities and foundations must work to invigorate enlightened grassroots participation in the democratic process; and (3) we, especially funders, need to overcome our arrogance and self-serving timidity and recognize that, regardless of organizational mission, we will not succeed as a sector if we don't also support efforts designed to strengthen civic engagement and democracy.

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The Worst Tax Reform That Money Can Buy

November 15, 2017

Tax-reformCharities and foundations are lucky. Often their self-interest and the public interest seem to be in conflict. But not this month, thanks to Congressional Republican efforts to "reform" the U.S. tax system.

In simple terms, the Republican plan is an effort to transfer more than $1.5 trillion from public purposes, government, and charities in order to further enrich already fantastically wealthy individuals and corporations. Under both the House and Senate plans, far less of the proposed cuts would benefit middle-class folks — many of whom would actually end up paying more in taxes. And even if Republican leaders' hopes to finance their scheme through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid fail, many of the other so-called reforms would profoundly hamstring our nation's ability to address critical social needs.

It's the same old class warfare that Republicans have promoted since the days of Ronald Reagan, and it must be opposed for the sake of both the nonprofit sector and the people and causes who rely and depend on the sector.

As detailed elsewhere, standard deduction provisions alone would cost charities more than $13 billion in donations each year. Changes in the estate tax, which the House proposes to eliminate and the Senate would reform by doubling the exempt amount, would also have a devastating impact. When the tax was suspended for a year in 2010, bequests dropped by over a third; full repeal would cost the Treasury $270 billion over a decade that might otherwise fund critical needs across America. Yet the Republican proposals allow the top one-fifth of one-percent, the very wealthiest 00.2 percent of Americans, to keep that money, even though most of it has never been and never would be taxed.

Simply put, the various tax policies being pushed in both the House and Senate would significantly cut charitable donations and otherwise harm nonprofits in order to finance giveaways to Americans who already hold a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth.

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Embrace Racial Healing to Change Hearts and Minds

August 22, 2017

Hands_photo_from_iStockPrior to the displays of hatred and the tragic loss of Heather Heyer,
a young woman who seemingly embraced the virtues of healing, a transformation was taking place in Charlottesville, Virginia. This college town, where roughly 80 percent of the residents are white, culminated a lawful process in February when its city council voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park.

Passionate acts came from opposing sides, as opponents filed suit
to stop the removal and the city changed the name of Lee Park to Emancipation Park. But there was honest dialogue and truth-telling, the ingredients for healing. Neighbors learned more about one another, their culture, and motivations. But the progress was derailed.

The protesters who converged in Charlottesville were largely white men often perceived as privileged in our society, and among their slogans was "We will not be replaced" by immigrants, blacks, Jews, or homosexuals. Instead of feeling empowered, they were threatened and seemed in pain. Their hearts and minds needed healing.

But racial healing doesn't begin until you intentionally, respectfully, and patiently uncover shared truths, as Charlottesville residents had begun to do before the violence and turmoil. Shared truths are not simply the removal of physical symbols, like monuments. While that may begin to change narratives, it doesn't reach the level of healing that jettisons racism from the land or creates equitable communities. Racism has persevered because remedies ranging from public accommodation laws to Supreme Court rulings are limited in scope and reach: They fail to change hearts and minds.

A new approach is needed that penetrates the full consciousness of our society, draws in all communities, and focuses on racial healing and truth-telling.

Racial healing can facilitate trust and authentic relationships that bridge vast divides created by race, religion, ethnicity, and economic status. Only after truths are shared, racism is acknowledged, and hearts begin to mend will communities begin to heal the wounds of the past and together move forward to address the bias in employment, education, housing, and health that causes widespread disparities and denies opportunities to our children.

To be sure, racial healing is predicated not just on emotional encounters such as saying, "I'm sorry"; rather, it's predicated on truth-telling. But who's truth? We all have our own truths, and we need collective conversations to help us in reaching a common truth and vision for the future based on what we decide.

And while sharing our individual truths requires that we share stories, reaching a common truth is more than a blending of stories. It's about co-creating morals, principles, wisdom, and guidance that is written on our hearts and captured in our faith and how we treat each other as human beings. It is developed by all of us in the courtyard, in town halls, and in living rooms with family and neighbors. That's where we develop "the" truth.

At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we promote racial healing because it moves people to act from their hearts. Real change happens when people work together and build relationships. Rarely does it occur when it is forced upon communities by laws and rulings. Last January, WKKF coordinated an annual National Day of Racial Healing that inspired civic, religious, community, and philanthropic organizations to collaborate on activities designed to facilitate racial healing. But we can't wait until next January to embrace racial healing.

Today, with the threat of unrest billowing through communities, our country needs to heal. All sides must air their fears and anxieties, and articulate their visions for a future where all children can thrive.

After centuries of racial hierarchy, all sides have been wounded. Whenever a policy or decision gives privileges to some and not others or perpetuates injustices, the collective community suffers, and part of our common humanity is lost. It leaves some wounded and unable to work toward our collective interest.

What is inspiring is the healing that is happening around the country. Earlier this year, two hundred people gathered at the Chicago Theological Seminary for an extraordinary day of racial healing. People of all races, genders, religions, and ethnicities gathered in healing circles to share their "truths" on the racism they endured or (consciously or unconsciously) unleashed on others. The healing circles were sanctuaries for truth-telling and helped people see one another, acknowledge differences, and begin to build authentic relationships.

WKKF, through our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) framework, is supporting racial healing in fourteen places where the framework is being implemented. Since 2010, when our America Healing initiative launched, WKKF has actively promoted racial healing and supported racial healing practitioners who are available to help communities, concluding that:

  • Racial healing accelerates human capacity for resilience, for embracing one another, and for reconnecting people who previously had their identities denied back to their roots, culture, language, and rituals.
  • The focus of racial healing is our "collective humanity" and lifting up that which unites us rather than that which divides us, while discovering, respecting, and indeed honoring our unique experiences.
  • Racial healing will facilitate narrative change, which will help everyone in communities articulate the truth about their collective histories and be exposed to full, complete, and accurate representations of themselves and their communities.

Headshot_montgomery_tabronCommunities must heal so they can grow. Let's heal and build sustainable progress neighbor by neighbor, community by community, to transform America so all children can have a brighter future.

La June Montgomery Tabron is president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Weekend Link Roundup (August 19-20, 2017)

August 20, 2017

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

206_460x460_Front_Color-NACurrent Affairs

The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University has put together a partial list of social impact leaders who spoke out against the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. The list includes statements by Elisa Villanueva Beard  (CEO, Teach for America), Ben Hecht (CEO, Living Cities), Danyelle Honoré, (President, UVA chapter of the NAACP), Jonathan Reckford (CEO, Habitat for Humanity International), and Kevin Trapani (CEO, Redwoods Group).

Half a dozen Connecticut Council on Philanthropy members also weighed in, including Michael Johnston (President/CEO, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford), Martha McCoy (Executive Director, Everyday Democracy), and Frances G. Padilla (President, Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut)

Other social sector leaders who made powerful statements include Jean Case (CEO, Case Foundation),  Kristen Clarke (President/ED, Lawyers Committe for Civil Rights Under Law), Aaron Dorfman (Executive Director, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy), Grant Oliphant (President, Heinz Endowments), and Rip Rapson (CEO, Kresge Foundation).

The violence in Charlottesville prompted the American Civil Liberties Union, on Thursday, to announce that it would no longer represent white supremacist groups that protest with guns. The PBS NewsHour's Joshua Barajas has the story.

In the Daily Dot, Andrew Wyrich explains why there's no such thing as the "alt-left."

On her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz reminds us that "Racism is a problem created by white people. People of color suffer, but white people are the ones who created it, benefit from it, perpetuate it, and, I believe, also suffer from it. None of us are free when some are not. It's not enough to say this, we need to act to change it, persistently and continuously...." 

Education

From 2003-2015, U.S. reading scores on the two most respected achievement tests, the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), remained essentially flat. So why aren't we making any progress? The answer, according to Paula J. Schwanenflugel, PhD, and Nancy Flanagan Knapp, PhD, writing in Psychology Today, is pretty straightforward: poverty.

Environment

The Society of Environmental Journalists is proud to present the winners of the 2016-2017 Awards for Reporting on the Environment. Congratulations to the winners!

International Affairs/Development

Convinced that the United States is losing the war of ideas in the Middle East, the Center for American Progress has issued a new guide to countering extremism in the region.

So you want to change the world and know exactly how to do it? Entrepreneur magazine's Jeffery Hayzlett shares five things you should consider before you get started.

And in Good Housekeeping, Melinda Gates, who knows a thing or two about the subject, shares her top ten tips for making the world a better place.

Philanthropy

On his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, Marc Gunther profiles Unorthodox Philanthropy, a program of the San Francisco-based Lampert Byrd Foundation that, in the words of founder Mark Lampert, looks for "opportunities with the greatest potential exist where others aren't looking."

In Fast Company, Ben Paynter reports on the work of a handful of foundations, including Ford and Omidyar Network, that are leading the charge into the brave new world of impact investment. And The Economist reports that even the Catholic Church is dipping its toes into the impact investing water.

The always level-headed Bruce DeBoskey has some good advice for families looking to engage "rising-generation members" in a mutigenerational family endeavor like philanthropy.

And Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors has three tips for NextGen philanthropists.

That's it for this week. Got something you'd like to share? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Statement Supporting NGOs in Hungary

May 03, 2017

Hands-upThose of you who check in with PND on a regular basis know (here, here, and here) that Viktor Orbán, the illiberal and increasingly authoritarian prime minister of Hungary, and lawmakers from the country's governing Fidesz party have launched a campaign to rid Hungary of liberal (and dissenting) voices. In addition to attacks on the press and political activists, the campaign has targeted nongovernmental organizations operating in the country with the help of foreign funding — with a particular focus on groups backed by the Open Society Foundations and its founder, Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros.

Last week, a group of funders led by the European Foundation Centre, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Stefan Batory Foundation issued a statement in support of Hungarian NGOs and the broader values of "transparency in the public, private, and social sectors and the reasonable regulation of civil society organizations." We are pleased to share that statement, which has been signed by a coalition of more than eighty philanthropic and civil society leaders from Europe and the United States, below.

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Statement Supporting NGOs in Hungary

As the leaders of private philanthropies in the United States and Europe, we are greatly concerned by the repeated efforts of the Hungarian government to restrict and stigmatize nongovernmental organizations operating in the public interest. This includes actions in recent years that have threatened the existence of organizations supported by Norwegian civil society grants and, more recently, steps that may force the closure of the Central European University. We are especially concerned with efforts to require entities that receive even modest international financial support to register as foreign-funded organizations and list this designation on their website and all publications, or face fines and potential closure.

We support transparency in the public, private, and social sectors and the reasonable regulation of civil society organizations, but some of the proposals currently under consideration go well beyond what is reasonable and would have the effect of discriminating against certain organizations and stigmatizing those that operate at world-class levels and are able to attract financial support from private foundations in Europe and globally. Hungarian law already requires all civil society organizations to report their sources of income and other support to the National Office for the Judiciary. We oppose public communications campaigns that undermine public trust in civil society organizations, falsely implying that such organizations in general, and those receiving foreign funding in particular, may be more prone to engaging in illegitimate activities than others. We are especially concerned that listing NGOs in a special registry of foreign-funded organizations may open the door to further, discriminatory treatment of these NGOs.

The ability to source funding from international donors is an important signal of the international quality and competitiveness of Hungarian NGOs, and it reflects Hungary’s solidarity with the European commitment to civil society. We hope the Hungarian government will honor the country’s and Europe’s commitment to the freedom of its citizens to form organizations, debate the issues of the day, and seek financial support from all legitimate sources.

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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.

Apocalypse Later? Philanthropy and Transparency in an Illiberal World

March 02, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series here on PhilanTopic that addresses 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 emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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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.

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GCIR - Joint Foundation Statement on Immigration

February 03, 2017

Since 1990, Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) has sought "to influence philanthropy to advance the contributions and address the needs of the country's growing and increasingly diverse immigrant and refugee populations." In so doing, it seeks "to promote effective grantmaking that not only improves the lives of newcomers but also strengthens communities."

On Friday, the group issued a joint statement on immigration signed by more than thirty foundations and funder groups. The statement, in its entirety, is included below, along with the names of the signatories:

______

Statement

The United States stands at a historical crossroads. Founded as a refuge from religious persecution and built by generations of immigrants, our country has been the standard bearer internationally for the assertion and protection of inalienable rights and freedoms, a beacon of hope for refugees facing oppression and persecution, and a land of opportunity for immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

As philanthropic institutions, we have built our missions on this proud and rich tradition. We have invested in creating healthy communities, promoting diversity and inclusion, building a vibrant democracy, and advancing equity and equality for all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, immigration status, and national origin.

The recently issued immigration executive orders compromise our nation's founding principles and the Constitution, our standing in the world, and our core values of liberty, justice, and due process. They weaken our moral leadership, fuel the efforts of those who wish us ill, harm our global competitiveness, and fray our social fabric.

Our foundations support diverse issues, strategies, and communities across the country, but we are united in the belief that immigrants and refugees are integral to every aspect of our society. Newcomers enrich our culture and tradition as artists, playwrights, and dancers. Naturalized citizens strengthen our civic life as voters, jurors, school-board members, and elected officials. Immigrant entrepreneurs and refugee-owned businesses revitalize neighborhoods, towns, and cities across America. Foreign-born scientists and engineers fuel innovations and help our country prosper. Farmworkers put food on our tables, and caregivers nurture our children, care for our elders, and nurse our ill. Young newcomers — including DACA beneficiaries — demonstrate their patriotism and enthusiasm for American ideals in schools, communities, workplaces, and the armed forces. Without the contributions of immigrants and refugees now and throughout our history, our collective well-being and economic vitality would be greatly diminished.

We, the undersigned philanthropies, join public officials, the faith community, business leaders, and the American public in supporting policies that protect our national security, strengthen our economy, and uphold core American values. We stand with our grantees — advocates, organizers, researchers, and service providers — in calling for policies that reflect our nation's founding principles, promote cohesion and inclusion, instill hope, and show compassion. Policies that recognize our global interdependence, that honor our tradition of welcoming those seeking refuge and a better life, and that keep families together will make our communities stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

We expect additional challenges in the weeks and months ahead on the immigration front, including expanded detention and deportations, and on policies affecting the rights of women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable groups. The issues, communities, and core values that our foundations have sought to advance are under serious and imminent danger. With history and morality as our guide, we reject discriminatory policies that target individuals based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender expression, and other grounds. We stand committed to the inherent value and dignity of every person at home and abroad. We stand together for the American Dream.

For more information or to sign the statement, contact Caleb Beaudoin (link sends e-mail). If joining, please provide the name of your foundation and the name and title of your signer (i.e., the CEO, the board chair, or both).

A special thanks to GCIR members and funders for their support in making this statement possible.

Signatories
Cora Mirikitani, President & CEO
Asian Americans / Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP)
Maria Mottola, Executive Director
New York Foundation
Audrey Yamamoto, President & Executive Director
Asian Pacific Fund
Kevin F. Walker, President & CEO
Northwest Area Foundation
Jerry Greenfield, President
Ben & Jerry’s Foundation
Ken Zimmerman, Director of U.S. Programs
Open Society Foundations
Antonia Hernández, President & CEO
California Community Foundation
Pedro Ramos, President & CEO
Philadelphia Foundation
Robert K. Ross, M.D., President & CEO
California Endowment
Gillian Darlow, CEO
Polk Bros. Foundation
Karen A. Simmons, President & CEO
Chester County Community Foundation
Mary E. McClymont, President and CEO
Public Welfare Foundation
Truman Collins, President
Cynthia G. Addams, CEO
Collins Foundation
Timothy P. Silard, President
Rosenberg Foundation
Laura Livoti, CEO
Common Counsel Foundation
Aixa N. Cintrón-Vélez, Ph.D., Program Director
Russell Sage Foundation
Alicia Phillip, President
Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Fred Blackwell, CEO
San Francisco Foundation
Joe Goldman, President
Democracy Fund
Fo-Ching Lu, President
Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation
Jennie Lehua Watson, Interim President
Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
Amanda Cloud, President & CEO
Simmons Foundation
Marcos Vargas, Executive Director
Fund for Santa Barbara
Tom Keith, President
Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina
Ben Francisco Maulbeck, President
Funders for LGBTQ Issues
Molly Gochman, Founder
Stardust Fund
Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director
General Service Foundation
Kriss Deiglmeier, CEO
Tides
Eva Grove, Founder & Board Member
Leslie Dorosin, Executive Director
Grove Foundation
Taryn Higashi, Executive Director
Unbound Philanthropy
Darren Sandow, Executive Director
Hagedorn Foundation
Kate Kroeger, Executive Director
Urgent Action Fund
Nat Williams, Ph.D, Executive Director
Hill-Snowdon Foundation
Nancy Wiltsek, Executive Director
van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation
Diana Campoamor, President
Hispanics in Philanthropy
Rick Kinsel, President
Vilcek Foundation
Don Howard, President & CEO
James Irvine Foundation
William S. Goldman, President, Board of Trustees
Pamela H. David, Executive Director
Walter & Elise Haas Fund
Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO
Latino Community Foundation
Fred Ali, President & CEO
Weingart Foundation
Debora Ortega, Ph.d., Board Chair
Carlos Martinez, Executive Director
Latino Community Foundation of Colorado
Edward Kissam, Trustee
Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund
James S. Farley, Esquire, President & CEO
Leichtag Foundation
Larry Kramer, President
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Helen Brunner, Foundation Director
Media Democracy Fund
Donna P. Hall, President & CEO
Women Donors Network
Charles Wilhoite, Board Chair
Doug Stamm, CEO
Meyer Memorial Trust
Grace Hou, President
Woods Fund Chicago
Frank I. Sanchez, Executive Director
Needmor Fund
Bob Uyeki, CEO
Y & H Soda Foundation
Michele Lord, President
NEO Philanthropy
Allison Magee, Executive Director
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Lorie A. Slutsky, President
New York Community Trust
 

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