Funding for? Feed

Whom Would Jesus Bail Out?

What constitutes a crisis worthy of $700 billion in emergency funding?, wonders AKMA, a theologian. He admits he is not an expert on Millennium Development Goals:

That doesn’t mean that it escapes my notice, though, when the Congress and the world’s financial systems can within a week decide to allot more than a half a trillion dollars toward shoring up already-wealthy people and institutions. Under the circumstances, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that political leaders don’t think of malnutrition and starvation, disease, and the lack of educational resources and economic opportunity as not that big a crisis.

The Abraham Path Initiative


The Abraham Path Initiative is an international NGO (nongovernmental organization), whose purpose is to inspire and support the creation of the Abraham Path. Founded at the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard University and sustained by a worldwide network of supporters, the Abraham Path Initiative is a non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian organization honoring all cultures and faiths.

Work is now underway to make the Abraham Path a reality. Host organizations are forming in countries along the route.

Funding is described here.


Funding Heritance?

Maureen Ward Doyle at Heritance in a comment to an earlier post:

"Noocracy" is an enticing concept. Especially for the people who have the where-with-all to get people to lend them their ears. Thanks to the advent of the blog, articulate, self-assured, word slingers -- like the group who is commenting here-- can muster people's attention. It's important to remember, however, that it is capital (i.e. capital, cultural and otherwise) which greases the wheels of all "-acies" (noocracy, democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy... alike) by buying the dominant group the initial audience.

How does the outsider get a hearing? What for instance does the new non-profit do to gain the minds, hearts and cash of others so as to do if they don't have the capital? In particular, what does s/he do if the movement ultimately poses a threat to the existing world order?

This is not just a rhetorical question. I've founded a non-profit whose mission is to bring technical assistance and "best practices" to museums around the world. Our partner museums feature some of the poorest and most remote in the world. We do this work in part by borrowing resources (mostly "experts") from the wealthy part of the museum world (1%) and giving them to the needy (the remaining 99%). After 9 months of trials, we've got an effective product, positive outcomes, dozens of museums on various continents clamoring for our assistance and dozens of museum experts willing to participate. What we don't have, however, is money.

And here's the problem. The public is uninspired by museum development. When you can feed the hungry or nurse the sick, why give money for a community-based museum in Mpophomeni, South Africa or traveling Mayan textile exhibit in Chiapas, Mexico? And foundations are not enough moved by our story to award us a grant, at least not the foundations we have already approached. (Many seem to be on other routes to social good,which are remarkably like each others'.)

Furthermore, the story we tell is potentially off-putting to a category of potential donors, namely the art collector and museum patron. Since we favor the tearing down of the thick walls between the haves and have-nots of the museum world and the creation of numerous, small, decentralized community-based museums, our values are at odds with this group of potential donors.

The same could be said of potential corporate sponsors. Since we work in places that were exploited (or continue to be exploited) in part by greedy corporations, we are very slow to find compatible donors in this sector.

Laughable as it may seem for a broke non-profit to be thinking this way, we can only imagine accepting support from an organization or person whose values we endorse. In fact, I'd rather the organization die than sell out.

So the question arises: short of waking up one morning as wealthy as George Soros or charismatic as Christ, how is it possible to sell a new, somewhat controversial idea without selling your soul? Setting aside the question of stretching one's soul (albeit mine could use some stretching beyond its puritanical limits), how does one get heard if one isn't already recognized as worth being listened to and isn't of the Napoleonic self-crowning bent?

Maureen is asking excellent questions to which I do not have the answer. Do others have suggestions on how an organization like Heritance, doing good while challenging the status quo, might win attention and funders? 

Tracy Gary's Picks for Transformative Giving

Tracy Gary's "Solstice Sampler" of nonprofits meriting our attention and support as we make year end gifts. I see Tracy in flowing robes at the top of some mountain top, with her wooden staff, robes and hair blowing in the wind, a Prophetess of Faith, Hope, and Love on the shortest day of year, when darkness is at its point of maximum expansion. When Tracy points with her staff to organizations she knows well, I don't ask for metrics. I rely on her life wisdom. Days get brighter from here.

Who Funds The School Voucher Movement?

National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy provides a one page summary of a new research report by their former Executive Director, Rick Cohen, showing who and how the voucher movement is funded. Not to hold you in suspense, the Milton Freidman Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation make the list, as does the Walton Family Foundation.  Rick stresses that these conservative funders use not just giving but a coordinated multi-sectoral strategic push to achieve their vision of social change.

In Strategic Grantmaking, Cohen identifies these strategies. One of these strategies is the use of unrestricted general operating support when giving to grantees at significantly higher rates than most foundations. These funders also tend to distribute more than the federally mandated 5 percent of assets, which means more money is getting into the hands of organizations that advance the agenda.

Cohen also found that the leaders of these foundations provide additional support to the privatization movement with personal contributions to candidates, political parties, political action committees and 501(c)(4) organizations.

Presumably, think tanks, pundits, soundbites, and policy papers are also part of the mix.  We, true progessives, on the other hand, have our super-weapon:  Eskimo Whale Chants. Social change begins inside us. By chanting to the whales we set good things in motion, not just for whales but for all our astral bodies.

Endow A Fool (Insert My Picture Here)

As hundreds of billions of sub-prime loans were packaged and sold, ending up in pension plans, mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance company reserves, or assets backing savings accounts, who will be holding the empty bag once all this is marked to market? Not just the intermediaries who were holding these flawed investments in inventory or for their own account, but all the schmucks and investment advisors who went by the ratings these mispriced investments carried.  Still, if you are the CEO of a huge investment firm who gets fired, the news is not all bad. From such ranks we might recruit a new President, a State Attorney General, or a big time philanthropist. Catherine Austin Fitts lays it out in a list of links. My favorite such moral story is that of the man who headed up a sub prime lending company, made a big donation to Bush and is now Ambassador to the Netherlands.  Either Clinton would have done the same, probably. As the Emperor Vespasian said of the toilet tax, Pecunia non olet, "Money has no smell."

Could someone please endow a team of Satirists in white Emergency Vehicles, making house calls on Wall Street and in DC? We stage interventions for the mental health of unimportant people. Who will intervene among those who rule us? What investment for political return, what philanthropic initiative to heal the body politic, could have a bigger bang for the buck than a team of Clowns taking America's ruling elite away in straightjackets? Once safely in the asylum we could begin the long slow process of healing.  At times the cure may seem to the patient worse than the disease, but the main thing is that the disease itself not be allowed spread. Speaking of corruption, the Italians say, "the fish rots from the head down." We must extirpate the corruption among our elite lest it infect the whole. Philanthropy won't do it, politics is too sick to cure itself. Big business is in cahoots. That leaves the Satirists. I am happy to do what I can but I am fed up with doing it all pro bono publico in a Dumpster. I at least want a bounty for every politician or CEO I bag and cure.

Post-Mortem America and the Hard Way Ahead

 Criminal means once tolerated are soon preferred, Edmund Burke, from Reflections on the Revolution in France

Chris Floyd on how democracy died in America while we were discussing giving, or the Super Bowl, or whatever it was that preoccupied us as consumers and citizens over these years since 9/11. The hard way ahead will have few philanthropists, I am afraid, but many givers. Those who create a new currency of conversation and show us how to live in truth without paying a high price for it will be the most valuable.  I have no idea what I am talking about and would suggest that you have no idea either.  By way of bibliography you might find these helpful.

To this list I might append the life and works of Paul deMan.  My fellow citizens, we are all collaborators now. In the spirit of the liberal arts, the arts of liberty, let us collaborate for the world we want.   

Art in Action Youth Leadership Program

If you need signs of hope get to know these young people and their work.  In Seattle at the WTO protest a few years ago they danced in the face of riot squads, and the guns went down.  Met two Art in Action artists today, heard their hiphop poetry, participated in their dance exercises, and copied down the following from a t-shirt:

The role of the revolutionary artist is to make revolution irresistible

By revolution they mean peace, love, art, and harmony across the barriers of wealth, age, privilege, and race.  That would revolutionary. In the audience of some 60 people I was with today, many are children of the 60's. We recognized that the best in that tradition has come back to life. You may not get the value of their work by glancing at the Art in Action site, but get to know them if you can. You, and your children, will be changed by the experience.

Funding Grassroots Social Change - Hello? Hello?

Gerry Gleason, a major giver in his own right, not of money (which he doesn't have a lot of), but of talent and time and creativity, asks me an important question to which I do not have an answer:

When will the progressive philanthropic community start to connect with the larger networks who are already moving forward with or without resources? We want to connect these communities and don't know how. The conversations in this space are the closest thing I have seen, yet there is still a disconnect. What is still missing?

Does anyone from the funder side have any input?

Gerry, by the way, is an MIT trained "geek." If your funding plans involve self-organizing systems on the internet, he would be a good entry point to idealistic, talented networks of people who have made their own sacrifices for the good of others. They don't want your check book philanthropy. They are not going to "cultivate" you as if you were a farm whose crop was cash.  They don't have professional fundraisers, grant writers, or a 5-year fundraising plan.  They are not out there taking courses on how to "make the Ask."  They have no clue about how to write a grant request. They are not nonprofits. It is just them, doing what they can do with their talents in small self-funded projects, to create online networks and offline collaboratives to protect the common good. They want to make common cause with other idealists who have resources, like money and connections. They have the skills to leverage those dollars many times over. And they are, I believe, as interested in your ideas, even in your leadership, as they are in your money. "Open Source Philanthropy" is a meaningful phrase to Gerry's friends because many are open source programmers.  You can't buy what they would give you. And you can't ask them to beg for your gift either. We are in it together as citizens.  Can we open some doors for one another? Can we get this conversation going, not in a backroom funder circle, but back and forth, through email or on line or face to face, with key players, with or without money?  These are unusually dangerous times. If we freak out and go into our little private worlds, the vacuum we leave in the public square will be filled by men in boots. Or maybe women;  one in particular.  The lies she tells with be official, and to say the reverse will be un-American, etc.  Maybe it already is and we have just not gotten the memo.

If you are engaged in a funder collaborative, or are in position to make an impact personally, and want to get in touch with me, I would be honored to talk (pro bono publico) with you about your sense of your capacity for leadership, citizenship, and active giving in the context of your resources, family, community engagement, and personal principles. There are many ways to engage, and many of us are active, just below the threshold of public visibility.  None of us can buy a better world, nor can the active ones build out their pieces sans resources. Gifts circulate, defining a community.  What can we do for you?

Are we talking about philanthropy yet?

Possibly.  You tell me.

Safeguard the Food Supply? Who is Fighting for What?

Organic Consumers Association:

After 35 years of hard work, the US organic community has built a multi-billion dollar alternative to industrial agriculture. Now large corporations, aided and abetted by the USDA and members of Congress, are moving to lower organic standardS and seize control....

How does this kind of thing happen? Well,

Agribusiness front groups, such as the Farm Bureau, big food corporations like Kraft, biotech companies such as Monsanto, right-wing think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute, and industry-friendly government agencies have consistently tried to undermine organic standards and get the USDA to allow conventional chemical-intensive and factory farm practices on organic farms.

So, then, tax deductible contributions to a Think Tank help the public interest how? The dark side of "philanthropy" - how can we learn to talk about this? May we?