Wednesday, March 4, 2009

National Committee For Responsive Philanthropy Report on Philanthropy Benchmarks: Calls for More Diversity Spending

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy recently issued a report entitled "Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best:  Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact".  While the report makes several recommendations regarding good grant-making practices, most of the attention has focused on the recommendation that private foundations increase their grant-making to "poor and minority populations:"

The pressure to get more philanthropies to help the poor and minority populations has generated the most controversy and comes on the heels of similar advocacy efforts in California and other states. According to three years of giving data from over 800 grant makers, the organization said that only 13 percent of the foundations it examined meet its criteria for giving and that 1 out of every 3 grant dollars benefits “lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined.” "This is, frankly, appalling, and it must improve if foundations are going to be relevant to addressing the most important problems facing our nation,” said Aaron Dorfman, the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, during a press event to announce the standards. He said his organization wants to trigger a debate about how foundations should operate, especially today during a recession when charities and many people are strapped for cash.

. . .

The part of the report that brings up race, diversity and other measures to increase direct spending for poor and minority communities has predictably provoked opposition from some well respected stakeholders:

Several grant makers, including the Atlantic Philanthropies, endorsed the standards. But the Council on Foundations, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and other nonprofit associations oppose them. Given the diversity of philanthropic organizations and causes, “we cannot endorse mandates, or imposed measures that seek to promote a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Steve Gunderson, president of the council, which represents about 2,000 grant makers. The Philanthropy Roundtable, which represents both foundations and wealthy donors, said in a statement: “These benchmarks have nothing to do with measuring effectiveness. In fact, the natural consequence of these benchmarks will be to reduce the scope and diversity of the foundation sector to one that serves a more narrow set of highly politicized interests.”

For further news reporting on the reactions in the nonprofit sector, see this Chronicle of Philanthropy article.


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