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October 2004

NAACP Faces Loss of Tax Exemption

The Washtington Post via COF Professional Advisor Network:

The Internal Revenue Service has threatened to revoke the NAACP's tax-exempt status because the civil rights group's chairman, Julian Bond, "condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush" during a speech this summer, according to documents the group provided yesterday. The NAACP, which is based in Baltimore and is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, is incorporated under a tax-code section that prohibits participation in a political campaign. The group has long had a strained relationship with the Bush administration. An IRS document dated Oct. 8 said that at the group's annual convention in Philadelphia in July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People may have violated the restriction on political activity because it "distributed statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the office of presidency."

Transformational Giving

A conservative friend and policy intellectual (and also a staunch Christian), Lenore Ealy, asked me how philanthropy could best be discussed in Hayekian terms, the three "Ps" of prices, profit/loss, and property. To which I thought fit to answer as follows:

A Christian is asked by the Roman Centurion to toss a pinch of incense on Caesar's altar or be crucified. One by one the Christians choose death. When you can explain that in Hayek's terms you have gone a long way towards explaining philanthropy. Altruism, sacrifice, moral heroism, fidelity to a community, the sense of the holy - can these reduced to prices, profit and loss, and property? We must not make the market into a false god. Around the market place are the Areopagus, the Acropolis, Law Courts, and Public Parks. Without a concept of public goods, of the polis, and the community, any analysis of giving will be flawed. You cannot reduce the holy to goods bought and sold, nor justice to that, nor poetry. Parsimonious explanation is good, but as the Russian poet Mayakovsky wrote, "How with only three words, one of them, apparently, 'borscht,' can one celebrate love and spring?" To those Christians to whom caritas is not a first principle (along with faith and hope) charity will never make much sense.

The measure of a gift is the transformation of the giver as well as of the recipient and society. The transformation may be spiritual, ethical, aesthetic, or political. The crust of self-interest breaks open like a cocoon, and, having once been a caterpiller crawling on the earth, out flies an entirely new, far lighter, creature of the air. That is at least one test.

The order of the Flesh and the order of the Spirit. To combine both is Compassionate Conservativism. To find fit language would require not just economics and public policy but religious traditions and the liberal arts. When any of us manages such a synthesis, distinctions like Red and Blue or Conservative and Progressive become less important, as we meet on more elevated ground. In the forefront of what may become a non-partisan effort are thinkers like Lenore, Bill Schambra, Amy Kass, Tracy Gary, and Peter Karoff.

Yellow Bracelet - The Phenomenon

Via COF Professional Advisor Network from The Washington Post (Free Subscription Required) By Alicia C. Shepard, 10/26/2004

Look around. There's a quiet yellow wristband revolution going on. They are not bar ID bracelets, as one Arlington teacher surmised when he saw Penn State students wearing them at a football game.
...Some say it's this year's pink ribbon. But in reality, Nike and Armstrong have come up with an exceptionally effective and far-reaching fundraising strategy. In only five months, demand for these gender-neutral wristbands emblazoned with "LIVESTRONG" has exceeded any ambitious fundraiser's wildest hopes.

When the Armstrong Foundation launched the "Wear Yellow, Live Strong" campaign on May 17, it had a simple goal: Sell 5 million bands for $1 each, and Nike would throw in $1 million. Then, use the $6 million for resources to help young people living with cancer. For full text article, click on headline above.

With $20 mil raised and counting, a good thing has been done. With bracelets selling for $36 on Ebay, and orders backlogged at the charity, you cannot say enough about the aching need of citizens to make a positive difference. Should we care that this charitable impulse is catalyzed by a fad marketing campaign by a company with a chiaroscuro reputation for labor practices and hard core marketing in the inner city? Yes we should! The need for community, for solidarity, is almost overwhelming. The milk of human kindness aches in the heart when unexpressed. Instead of wearing the Nike fad-marketing bracelets Kerry and Bush would do better to think one heck of a lot bigger. There is more to life than markets. The bracelets both affirm and deny the limits of commercialism. They are a bright yellow plastic contradiction, as if the Catholic Church were to market the Cross through special arrangement with Wakenhutt  prisons.

Caritas and Community - we can do better than Nike, or any other mixed motive marketer, with or without the bracelets.

Code of Ethics for Independent Foundation Consultants

The Ethical Code, promulgated by Doug Freeman. In a field that does need professionalism and ethics, it is good to see such a code. What is interesting in this particular code is the absence of any mention of the public interest. Who does the philanthropic consultant serve? Does the advisor owe any obligation to the good of society, or only to the good of society as percevied by the grantmaker, however benighted? That tension is one I feel as a teacher in every conversation. Do we as advisors have an obligation to follow Socrates, Diogenes, and many a poor Clown, in challenging the grantmaker as to ends as well as means? Say, "No," and we are just courtiers, or faithful servants. Say, "Yes," and you may seem impertinent. If Fools in the Court of Kings had a professional code of ethics, how might it read? (Serve your Master faithfully, no matter how he beats you for your jokes and songs out of season.)

ACLU Rejects Grants from Rockefeller and Ford

NY Times 10/19/2004 via COF Professional Advisor Network:

The American Civil Liberties Union has rejected $1.15 million from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, saying their effort to ensure that none of their money inadvertently underwrites terrorism or other unacceptable activities is a threat to civil liberties. The organization has also returned to Ford $68,000 that it accepted in April and that was governed by the same restrictions as those on the two grants the board decided to decline at a contentious meeting on Sunday. Anthony D. Romero, the A.C.L.U.'s executive director, said the language of the contracts governing the Ford and Rockefeller grants was broad and ambiguous, leaving them open to interpretation that could impede free speech and limit advocacy work not only at his organization but also at other nonprofits.

Kerry and Live Strong

Speaking of Nike's Live Strong campaign, did you notice that last night in the third presidential debate that Kerry had a yellow bracelet on his left wrist? You could see it under the sleeve of the dark suit, when he raised his hand to make a point with emphasis. What would it have cost Nike to buy that time and space on national tv? Images and substance, wealth and power, philanthropy and profit, in the endless dance of the ever-spinning spectacle.

Michael Joyce Did Well Doing Good

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, October 13, via COF Professional Advisor Listserv:

After more than 15 years as president of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Michael Joyce ended his tenure with a bang. Joyce retired on July 5, 2001, and collected $300,000 in salary for just over six months of work, as well as $737,923 in deferred compensation owed for his past years of service. On top of that, the board of trustees he sat on awardedJoyce a $1.86 million lump sum retirement payment. In all, Joyce collected a total of $2.9 million, the foundation's annual tax filing shows. That was almost three times larger than the biggest grant awarded by the foundation that year, and could have paid for about 53 more charitable gifts by the organization - the average grant in 2001 being roughly $55,000. It also would have paid the average salary of 27 foundation directors, according to national data...Even compared to the pay at profit-making companies, Joyce did very well, getting more in total compensation than 97 of the top 111 executives in Wisconsin earned in 2001. But Joyce was executive of a charitable organization, which is exempt from federal, state and local taxes.

Given the success of Bradley in moving America's public policy agenda to the right, I would say his funders got their money's worth. Cash on cash there is no better way for the rich, and their corporations, to line their own pockets than deregulation and tax cuts. While campaign finance may be restricted, why not make unlimited tax deductible "charitable" contributions to foundations that drive policy? The workman is worthy of his hire. Surely the scandal (if scandal there be) is not the pay per se. Michael Joyce delivered results, cheap at the price.

Charity is about a better life in a better world. At least we can all agree on that much. I guess I am just sore that Michael Joyce was so successful in making his views of the good life stick. Would like to see an equally effective response from more progressive sources, though the funding might not be so easy to come by, and the salaries less competitive. Perhaps, who knows? Politicians and thinkers might do it for free, the right thing. Or for paltry sums, out of civic pride. Or for the good of humankind. Or in the disinterested pursuit of justice. (Ah, foolish thoughts. The truth comes cheaper than what Joyce was paid, but it ain't free. If our country is sold, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Dollar by dollar we can raise the money to buy it back, unless like an auction, we just bid the price higher.)

Faith, Family, Community and Philanthropy

FAMILY GIVING NEWS via the COF Philanthropic Advisor Network:

The October Family Giving News explores how faith can inform and transform conversations about participation and accountability in philanthropy. The issue features two contributing authors: David Trickett of The Jefferson Circle explores how faith can facilitate a return to active, engaged philanthropy; and The National Center for Family Philanthropy’s Kevin Laskowski probes how faith can help families address effectiveness and accountability, as well as provide the nonprofit sector with new ways of talking about those issues.