Saturday, February 2, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: California Set to Demand Diversity Disclosures from Foundations

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that:

The California Assembly on Tuesday approved legislation to require big foundations to disclose the composition of their boards and employees by race, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as information about the grants and business contracts they award to organizations that help specific minority groups.

The bill was supported by the Greenlining Insitute, an interesting nonprofit out of San Francisco whose goals, according to their website, is to "increase low-income and minority participation in civic participation and policy-making that result in equitable policies that improve the quality of life for all communities."  The history and full text of the bill is available here.  In the meantime, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times has condemned the bill as simply too much:

Imagine if the Bush administration proposed that the Internal Revenue Code be amended to require that nonprofit foundations disclose the makeup -- including gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation -- of their boards of directors, their trustees, their employees and of all the organizations that receive grants.

The criticism would be swift and unambiguous: This is absurdly intrusive and a violation of privacy. Foundations would organize to oppose any such legislation. The ACLU would not be far behind.

Yet in California, an equally intrusive measure, AB 624, sailed through the Assembly on Tuesday with barely a whisper of protest. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Joe Coto (D-San Jose) at the behest of the Greenlining Institute, aims to remedy what the institute describes as the lack of diversity in the world of foundations.

Yeah, this may very well be a case of overreaching, particularly since it is applied to a people who, by and large, can be charitably described as a buncha do-gooders.  My head says the bill will likely divert sources from good causes to a foundation's overhead.  And the objections raised by the LA Times are, as an intellectual matter, indisputable.  But, as my father used to say whenever people perjoritively refer to efforts at increasing diversity as "quotas," . . . "when the quota was zero, nobody complained!"  It may be a good idea to ensure that Private Foundations not run afoul of Bob Jones University but this bill probably needs some serious retrofitting. 

By the way, thanks to Dien Yuen (a picture of humility) for bringing this to my attention.  Check out her blog on Asian  American Philanthropy.  There is a really good post today entitled "5 Challenges Advisors and Gift Planners Face When Working With Asian Donors".


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