Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bill Said to Impose Racial Diversity on Charities Withdrawn by California Legislator

The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday, June 24, that legislation, Assembly Bill 624, introduced by a California Legislator, Joe Coto (D-San Jose), was withdrawn by the legislator after 10 of the largest California foundations agreed to a multimillion-dollar, multiyear investment in minority communities.  According to the Assemblyman's website, the "bill requires large foundations to disclose the racial and gender composition of their boards of directors and the number of grants awarded to organizations serving ethnic minority communities."  The bill was introduced following the release of a study in August 2007, Investing in a Diverse Democracy: Foundation Giving to Minority-Led Nonprofits, prepared and conducted by The Greenlining Institute, a California-based research and advocacy nonprofit, highlighting the failure of California foundations to support minority-led nonprofits.  The organization posted a response to the foundations and others who challenged the need for AB 624 on its website. 

Below is an excerpt of the Sacramento Bee story:

Faced with legislation that would require them to disclose their ethnic composition and detail grants awarded to minority organizations, 10 of California's largest foundations agreed Monday to a multimillion-dollar, multiyear investment in minority communities.

In return, Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose, dropped a bill that opponents said was an effort to impose racial diversity on charities and threatened to drive donors out of California.

Many foundations enjoy tax-exempt status. But according to a 2006 study by the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute, which sponsored Coto's legislation, only 3.6 percent of grant dollars from the nation's top 24 private foundations went to minority-led organizations.

"The Greenlining Institute provided us some evidence that the level of investment by these foundations in minority communities was inadequate compared to the level of investment they are making elsewhere," Coto said.

Coto said by asking foundations "to shed some light on their investments," he hoped "they would then be in a position to make greater investments."

"They saw this as an opportunity to do what we were suggesting and we've worked out this agreement that I think will be positive for everyone," he said.

The foundations, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation and the California Endowment – said in a joint statement that nonprofits play a critical role in addressing the challenges facing minority and low-income communities.

The foundations reaffirmed their commitment to help minority organizations compete for grants and said they would issue annual reports about their efforts.

For the full story, click here.

The comments to the story posted on the Sacremento Bee's website, for me, are the story within the story.  The comments range from supportive to racially antagonistic.  For me, the comments reflect the deeper divide along racial lines that is being brought to light by the presidential race.  A recent Washington Post Story about the significance race will play in the upcoming presidential election captures this divide.

I encourage you to review the comments, too, and to draw your own conclusions.  Click here for the comments.

AMT

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