Altruism Today

Missing millionaire keeps giving

February 23rd, 2015  |  Source:

38 years ago, candy heiress Helen Brach disappeared in heist attempt, but thieves didn't know her millions were safe in the foundation that still carries on her philanthropy.

"Known as 'The Candy Lady,' Helen Brach was one of Chicago's richest widows after inheriting the Brach Company fortune when her husband Frank died in 1970.

When Mrs. Brach went missing 38 years ago this week in a murder plot aimed at stealing her fortune, swindlers didn't know that her money was untouchable. It had been hidden away in a foundation bearing her name- an organization that continues to pay out decades after her death. In an old South loop office building, up on the 13th floor, is a small office marked by a small sign: Helen Brach Foundation. But there is nothing small about the fortune behind the foundation." --

Business Leaders Move Quickly to Send Thousands of Kids to See ‘Selma’ Free

February 19th, 2015  |  Source:

An act of "pop-up philanthropy" in New York City raised thousands of dollars to help school kids see the movie "Selma" and sparked similar movements in more than 30 cities across the country.

"Selma," nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, chronicles the civil-rights movement protests that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Central to the story is the Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery. It took several tries to complete the protest, with state troopers assaulting peaceful black participants during the first attempt, and ultimately the effort compelled President Lyndon Johnson to endorse the bill.

Moved by the film, a group of African-American business leaders in New York City raised money for public middle-school students to see it for free.

"I walked out of the theater with my wife and said, ‘Every New York City eighth grader should see this movie," said William Lewis Jr., co-chairman of investment banking at Lazard.

Mr. Lewis proposed the idea to Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor and a director of Viacom, which owns the movie’s production company, Paramount Pictures, then pitched it to friends at a dinner party. Four people offered to donate $10,000 each.

After Mr. Phillips called Paramount to figure out logistics, the small group called other friends and in a matter of days had raised $270,000 from 27 people. Donors included Debra Lee, CEO of BET Networks, Ed Lewis, co-founder of Essence magazine, and Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express.

MacArthur Launches $75M Initiative to Reduce America's Use of Jails

February 11th, 2015  |  Source: MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur today announced an initial five-year, $75 million investment that seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Safety and Justice Challenge will support cities and counties across the country seeking to create fairer, more effective local justice systems that improve public safety, save taxpayer money, and lead to better social outcomes.

Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to building and running them.

“For too long America has incarcerated too many people unnecessarily, spending too much money without improving public safety,” said Julia Stasch, MacArthur’s President. “Jails are where our nation’s incarceration problem begins; there are nearly 12 million jail admissions every year, and jails too often serve as warehouses for those too poor to post bail, nonviolent offenders, or people with mental illness. With this substantial, long-term commitment and investment, MacArthur hopes to support and demonstrate alternatives to incarceration as usual, and to create demand and momentum for change across the country.”

The Challenge will support jurisdictions across the country working to safely reduce over-reliance on jails, with a particular focus on addressing disproportionate impact on low-income individuals and communities of color. Core to the initiative is a competition through which the Foundation will fund up to 20 jurisdictions to design and implement plans for creating fairer, more effective local justice systems using innovative, collaborative, and evidence-based solutions. The Foundation released a request for proposals for the competition today.

Despite growing national attention to the large number of Americans confined in state and federal prisons, significantly less attention has been paid to local justice systems, where the criminal justice system primarily operates and where over-incarceration begins. 

According to a report released today by the Vera Institute of Justice, “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America”:

·       There are nearly 12 million local jail admissions every year – almost 20 times the number of prison admissions, and equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles and New York City combined.

·       Nearly 75 percent of the population of both sentenced offenders and pretrial detainees are in jail for nonviolent offenses like traffic, property, drug, or public order violations.

·       From 1982 to 2011, cumulative expenditures related to building and running jails increased nearly 235 percent. Local jurisdictions now spend $22.2 billion annually on correctional institutions.

The Challenge will engage a diverse range of organizations and individuals – law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, defenders, policymakers, academia, advocates, and funders – to lend their insights and participation to this effort. Four of the nation's leading criminal justice organizations will provide technical assistance and counsel to Safety and Justice Challenge jurisdictions: the Center for Court Innovation, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, and the Vera Institute of Justice.

The MacArthur Foundation has been active in the justice field for more than 20 years. Through its Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative, the Foundation has supported reform in more than 35 states in an effort to create a more rational, fair, effective, and developmentally appropriate juvenile justice system. MacArthur has supported seminal research on the effects of modern neuroscience on criminal law and has a rich history in international justice, including helping to establish the International Criminal Court. The Foundation has for several years supported work related to criminal justice reform as part of an exploration of a strategy for reform in the field. This work included support for the National Academies of Sciences 2014 report The Growth of Incarceration in the United States.

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Aid Charity Investigated by USAID Purges Senior Leadership

February 10th, 2015  |  Source:

More than half a dozen top executives at International Relief and Development resigned Friday amid multiple inquiries into alleged financial misconduct by one of the U.S. Agency for International Development's biggest contractors, according to The Washington Post.

The Arlington, Va.-based charity's chief financial officer, general counsel, and chief administrative officer were among those departing as the organization seeks to demonstrate accountability after it was suspended by USAID last month.

International Relief and Development has received $2.4-billion in government contracts since 2007, primarily for humanitarian and community-development work in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jean M. Hacken, the charity's chief of compliance from 2009 to 2014, said its executives charged Redskins game tickets, personal dining and travel, and alcohol at organizational functions to the government as overhead costs. The nonprofit's husband-and-wife founders, Arthur B. Keys and Jasna Basaric-Keys, retired last year.

Young Tech Donors Take Leading Role in Philanthropy 50

February 9th, 2015  |  Source:

America’s 50 most generous donors increased their giving by 27.5 percent last year—powered in large part by a $1.5-billion gift from Bill and Melinda Gates and a stunning rise in the number of tech entrepreneurs under 40, three of whom gave more than $500-million each.

The increase is striking compared with 2012, when giving by the Philanthropy 50 rose just 4 percent.

Two of the technology wunderkinder who are transforming the profile of big philanthropy have not previously disclosed the extent of their giving. They are Jan Koum, the 38-year-old founder of the messaging company WhatsApp, who donated $556-million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, putting him at No. 4 onThe Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50, and Sean Parker, the 35-year-old former Facebook president and founder of Napster, who ranked No. 5 by contributing $550-million, split between his family foundation and a donor-advised fund.

They are followed by Nicholas Woodman, 39, and his wife, Jill, 38, founders of the high-tech camera company GoPro, who donated slightly more than $500-million, also to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Why non-profits should consider a revenue-driven model

February 4th, 2015  |  Source: Globe & Mail

In a recent article in The New Zealand Herald, “Why Does Social Enterprise Matter?”, The Akina Foundation explores why now is a better time than ever for nonprofit social organizations to shift to self-sustaining (or even profitable) business models. We couldn’t agree more.

Our organization, The Global Good Fund, accelerates the development of young social entrepreneurs through a 15-month Fellowship. We pair Fellows with esteemed executives who serve in a coaching capacity, provide leadership assessment resources and offer a network of peer leaders, sector expertise and targeted financial capital. Until now, we have relied on donor funding to support these young leaders. But given the immense amount of time and resources invested in each Fellow, we realized that it would be impossible to scale our program and invest in more leaders each year without making fundamental changes to how we operate.

As a result, we are creating revenue-producing services that shift us from a donor-driven organization to a financially sustainable enterprise. With this critical shift, our objective is to scale and further accelerate the development of young social entrepreneurs tackling the world’s greatest challenges. For us, iterating to develop revenue streams is imperative to our long-term growth and ability to deliver global social impact.

And we are not the only organization that faces the crossroads of donor-driven versus revenue-generating operations. The reality is that it doesn’t need to be an either/or situation.
In response to The Akina Foundation’s article, we identified 10 reasons why shifting from a donor-driven organization to a revenue-producing social enterprise is more beneficial in terms of global impact.

Read on here:

Nonprofit Nursing Homes Seize Control of Residents--As Collateral

February 2nd, 2015  |  Source: NPQ/NYT

On the heels of the scandal about nonprofit hospitals’ aggressive collections practices, which can destroy the lives of poor patients, comes this story about nonprofit nursing homes that seize the patients themselves in an effort to collect their bills. We hope that readers will help us call this practice to the attention of legislators concerned with hospital collections.

Ninety-year-old Lillian Palermo is a resident at the nonprofit Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home. Recently, after protesting about changes in copayments and the quality of care, her husband, Dino Palermo, who visits daily and is described as devoted, found a six-page petition for guardianship waiting on her bed. The petition asked the court to give a stranger legal power over Mrs. Palermo and her finances.

Researchers at Hunter College found that this type of action has become routine. In a random sample of 700 guardianship cases filed over the last ten years in Manhattan, 12 percent were found to have been brought by nursing homes. Lawyers familiar with the guardianship process say that these petitions are primarily used by nursing homes as a means of bill collection.

“It’s a strategic move to intimidate,” said Ginalisa Monterroso, who left her employment at Mary Manning Walsh in 2012. “Nursing homes do it just to bring money.” She called the practice cruel.

Attorney Brett D. Nussbaum, who represents a number of nursing homes including Mary Manning Walsh, said, “The Palermo case is no different than any other nursing home bill that they had difficulty collecting.” Nussbaum says he has brought 5,000 guardianship cases in his 21 years of practice. “When you have families that do not cooperate and an incapacitated person, guardianship is a legitimate means to get the nursing home paid.”

Though many judges do approve such petitions, Alexander W. Hunter, Jr., a longtime State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx and Manhattan, has strong opinions about the practice. In response to two guardianship cases in 2006 and 2007, Justice Hunter required nursing homes bringing such actions to bear the legal costs, ruling that these kinds of petitions to collect funds was not part of the legislature’s intent when it enacted Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law. In a case involving the Hebrew Home for the Aged last year, Justice Hunter did appoint a guardian, but he directed the guardian to investigate whether there was reason to refer the case for criminal prosecution for financial exploitation.

Here is the way the case is described by the New York Times:

“The decision describes a 94-year-old resident with a bank balance of $240,000 who had been unable to go home after rehabilitative treatment because of a fire in her co-op apartment; her only regular visitors were real estate agents who wanted her to sell. After Hebrew Home’s own doctor evaluated her as incapable of making financial decisions, the decision says, the nursing home collected a $50,000 check from her; it sued her when she refused to continue writing checks, then filed for guardianship.”

In the Justice’s decision, he wrote:

“It would be an understatement to declare that this court is outraged by the behavior exhibited by the interested parties—parties who were supposed to protect the person, but who have all unabashedly demonstrated through their actions in connection with the person that they are only interested in getting paid.”

NFL president Roger Goodell made $44 million last year, as head of a not-for-profit

February 1st, 2015  |  Source: Fiscal Times

Football fans are unhappy with the cheating scandal that has roiled the Super Bowl. What should worry them more is this: NFL president Roger Goodell made $44 million last year, as head of a not-for-profit. You know – a not-for-profit like the Salvation Army or the March of Dimes. That’s right – even though the NFL teams raked in about $9.5 billion in revenues last year, and the CEO of their industry association takes home one of the highest paychecks in the land, the sports league pays no taxes. Not only is the NFL tax-exempt, so is an organization called the NFL Management Council that undertakes “labor negotiations on behalf of NFL Member Clubs.” That’s how screwed up our tax system is.

Half the diehard fans tuning in to Sunday’s Super Bowl think the New England Patriots cheated. That’s the news from a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling: 50% of NFL followers are convinced that Tom Brady’s team intentionally deflated those famous footballs. Affection for the Pats has plummeted, with a majority of fans now rooting for the Seahawks.

The NFL has dragged its collective cleats, just like in the Ray Rice scandal, taking its time to interview the participants in the Pat’s blow-out defeat of the Colts. As of today, officials had still failed to speak with rather pivotal figures such as, for example, QB Tom Brady, who was the obvious beneficiary of the “Deflategate” scandal.

As unhappy as football fans are with the cheating scandal – they should be even angrier with the management of the NFL. A recent article in GQ magazine reported Goodell’s out-sized compensation package at $44 million per year for seven years, which makes Goldman Sach’s Lloyd Blankfein’s $24 million take-home look downright measly by comparison. Goodell’s comp was determined by a three-owned committee including -- guess who? -- Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. Kraft and Goodell are known to be close buddies, raising questions about conflicts of interests; some suggested an aggressive inquiry into the deflated balls was unlikely, given that relationship. Goodell reportedly visited Kraft’s home after the AFC Championship game with the Colts.  Cozy.

Even more questionable, though, and more important to the country, is the NFL’s tax-exempt status, which it claims as a 501c(6) organization. Eligible groups for that designation include: business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, board of trade and…professional football leagues.   

As a not-for-profit, the NFL files a form 990 each year. For the 2013 fiscal year (ending March 2013), the NFL reported revenues of $327 million and a profit of just under $9 million. A public for-profit company with modest numbers like that would surely not be doling out tens of millions to its CEO. And, it’s not just the CEO earning big bucks. Several other officers are highly paid as well; all told, the NFL dishes out $60 million in compensation to its staff. Some 298 individuals earned $100,000 or more.  Admittedly, it is the hefty revenues earned by the teams that also influences the money paid Goodell and his staff. Still, it is pay that is subsidized by taxpayers. 

The NFL spent $1.2 million on lobbying in 2013; undoubtedly some of that money went to maintaining its tax-exempt status. (It states in its filing that the organization admits to some “uncertainty in income taxes.”) It also dished out more than one million in grants and gifts to organizations like $20,000 each to the National Association of Black Journalists, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New York and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. More curious is $639,000 given to the NFL Foundation for “Charitable Gifts – Coach/Club Fines.” Are taxpayers underwriting club fines?

 Senator Tom Coburn’s parting gift to voters upon his retirement last year was a scathing indictment of our tax system, called Tax Decoder. In it, he pillories many of our country’s 165 tax giveaways, including the exemptions allowed the NFL. It wasn’t his first salvo against the football franchise. In 2012 he identified the handout in his annual Waste Book, and then in 2013 he proposed the PRO Sports Act, which would forbid any professional sports organization earning revenues above $10 million from filing as a nonprofit organization. His bill would have prevented not only the NFL, but also the PGA and the National Hockey League from receiving taxpayer assistance. 

The bill failed to gain widespread support. "If you are in a state that has a pro football league or runs a pro golf tournament, the career politicians are afraid to touch it," Coburn said at the time. He also noted, “Tax earmarks are essentially tax increases for everyone who doesn’t receive the benefit…In this case, working Americans are paying artificially high rates in order to subsidize special breaks for sports leagues. This is hardly fair.”

 That seems an understatement. Football’s popularity is huge, and despite the controversies, more than one hundred million people will tune into this weekend’s Super Bowl. Americans love the NFL – but as questions about the league’s governance pile up, they may get tired of helping to foot the bill. It’s up to Congress to clean up our tax system.

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When Board Members Get in the Way of a Great Redesign

January 28th, 2015  |  Source:

Boards of Directors are key to the functioning of successful nonprofits.
They look out for the long-term direction and fiscal sustainability of the organization and open new opportunities. They hold leadership accountable. A lot is asked of board members in terms of financial contributions, connections, and time – often for little in return except for a few networking opportunities and the satisfaction of having helped out.

However, while organizations should be grateful to their hardworking board members, too often members overreach and can have a negative impact on decision making. This is especially true when it comes to marketing, design, and communications, disciplines that seem to attract an outsize share of unqualified participation.

Familiar patterns include a longtime board member who is understandably attached to a charity’s history, logo, name, and brand or a new trustee who mistakes his general business skill for specific marketing and design expertise. In either case, the interference often hinders the process.

A nonprofit hiring a financial consultant would be shocked to see a board member with little or no finance background suggesting major modifications to a carefully thought-out fiscal plan, but many executive directors regularly anticipate such intervention on marketing and communication projects.
I once worked on a project in which a board member neglected to participate in a rebranding effort until after a logo had been chosen, only to perceive a resemblance to a common retail brand he didn’t care for. His reservations threatened to derail what had been a long and hard-fought process.

This resemblance was not observed by the CEO, director of marketing, or our team, and luckily with some careful diplomatic maneuvers the issue was resolved, and the logo has been a great success for the organization ever since.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but I see it all too often. Most board members trust their CEOs and executive directors and have a healthy awareness of their limitations. However, some board members fail to see where their participation is unhelpful to the process.
Here are a few suggestions for everyone involved in a major communications overhaul that can be especially effective in mitigating the issues above.

Involve the right people early. Start any major rebrand by talking to a large number of relevant constituents (board members, donors, staff, clients, partners) and look for common insights in their narratives. If you know some decision makers have the power to derail a decision, bring them on early in the process so their concerns can be integrated into the thinking and their objections can be evaluated. People who are too busy to get involved should understand their opinions cannot be fully informed, so they need to allow the process to unfold without their full participation.
Create a framework. Far too often someone chimes in that a logo should be red instead of blue.

Typically this advice comes from someone who is neither an expert in color theory nor an active participant in the communications process. A framework — a list of necessary conditions — allows you to highlight in advance the key attributes that are needed for a design or communications decision to be successful and then to weigh input against that framework. In this way, we know to implement the change from red to blue only if it serves a strategic need, like if red better fits our goal of being bold than does blue.

Educate participants on the psychology of change. As humans, we prefer the familiar over the new, and we typically fear loss more than we see opportunity. A once ambitious rebranding can easily morph into a cautious and ineffective crawl toward mediocrity and compromise when excitement about the process starts to encounter the reality of its permanence. Recognizing these tendencies can help counteract them.

Sometimes board members need to put egos aside and be open to uncomfortable but necessary changes. That may not be easy, but it is crucial for a successful evolution of a brand in an increasingly dynamic world.

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