Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A U.S. Department of Philanthropy? It could happen...

On August 19, 2008, the Washington Post reports that a group of nonprofit organizations is urging government leaders to create a special federal entity, similar to the Small Business Administration, that would "boost the presence of philanthropy and community service in a new administration."  The group wants the new entity to "match nonprofit programs with government priorities, help successful community-based initiatives grow and organize a corps of service volunteers."  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Meanwhile, a coalition of nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs recently started America Forward, a similar campaign based on the idea that solutions to the nation's problems already exist, often conceived by small but innovative community-based groups. America Forward seeks to combine corporate pragmatism, charitable ethos and government investment to develop these solutions to address the biggest challenges.

"The philanthropic dollars provide us the money to experiment and try new things," said Kim Syman, an America Forward co-founder. "Philanthropy can fail in a way that government can't. But we can catalyze government investment in growing what works."

But these proposals have drawn skepticism from some philanthropists who pride themselves on their autonomy and are leery of government oversight.

. . .

"Some people think, 'Hey, it's a great idea,' " said Alan J. Abramson, a philanthropy scholar at George Mason University. "But there's also this other argument that . . . we don't want an agency that is going to over-regulate us."

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who chairs a key subcommittee, said Congress will study the proposals, but cautioned that an increased role for government may not be best for nonprofit groups. "Sometimes we can get in the way," he said.

For the entire story, see "Some Nonprofits Push for Increased Federal Involvement" in the August 19, 2008, issue of the Washington Post.


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