Altruism Today

Archdiocese of SF Vows to Stop Drenching Homeless People Seeking Refuge

March 20th, 2015  |  Source: NPQ

A few weeks ago, NPQ published a newswire about “defensive architecture,” urban design that is hostile to humans. The source article discussed such stuff as spiked areas where homeless people might sit on the grounds and benches designed to discourage comfort. But the Archdiocese of San Francisco has taken things to a whole new level by installing a system that periodically dumps water through a hole in the ceiling into the four sheltered doorways of Saint Mary’s Cathedral where homeless people sometimes go to rest. This repellent system has been in place apparently for a year.

KCBS in San Francisco, which reported on the system, observed the shower running in four different doorways for about 75 seconds every 30 or 60 minutes, starting before sunset and soaking homeless people and their belongings. There are no signs that warn people about what will happen if they take refuge at this house of God.

Once it was brought to their attention, the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection issued a notice of violation for “the unpermitted downspout,” sending its chief plumbing inspector to the site on Tuesday. The Archdiocese was given 15 days to remove the system but it vowed to have it gone by the end of the day.

The archdiocese issued a statement that read in part, “The people who were regularly sleeping in those doorways were informed in advance that the sprinklers were being installed,” adding, “The idea was not to remove those persons, but to encourage them to relocate to other areas of the Cathedral, which are protected and safer.”

It continued: “We are sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognize that the method used was ill-conceived. It actually has had the opposite effect from what it was intended to do, and for this we are very sorry.”

Chris Lyford, speaking for the Archdiocese, which does fund programs to address homelessness, said cathedral staff tries to help. “We refer them, mostly to Catholic Charities, for example, for housing,” Lyford said. “To Saint Anthony’s soup kitchen for food, if they want food on that day. Saint Vincent de Paul, if they need clothes.” But they keep coming back. “We do the best we can, and supporting the dignity of each person. But there is only so much you can do.”

“I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way,” one neighbor said to KCBS. “The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.”

Tax-Deductibility of Donations for Israeli Settlements Questioned

March 16th, 2015  |  Source: NPQ

Source: Mother Jones
Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones that a global nonprofit called Avaaz has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the charitable status of the Hebron Fund, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that provides financial support to Israeli settlers in Hebron, a community in the Occupied West Bank. Not a particularly long-established group, much like other similar organizations, Avaaz functions as a venue for Internet-based organizing, using techniques such as petitions, online media campaigns, and lobbying governments, focusing on issue priorities established by Avaaz members. (The Avaaz webpage, when we looked at it on March 13th, claimed 41,513,085 members in 194 countries.)

The role of the settlements is very contentious, as they appear to be illegal under international law no matter what justifications may be used by the government of Israel to maintain its military occupation of the West Bank and the continued building of settlements there and in East Jerusalem.

Harkinson, and presumably Avaaz, asks “why American taxpayers continue to subsidize the Hebron settlers, accused by international observers of human rights violations that include thefts, battery, and murder.” Among those international observers are Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and B’tselem, all documenting human rights abuses in Hebron conducted by settlers, to which the Israeli Defense Forces soldiers in the area turn a blind eye.

Harkinson quotes from an Avaaz official, outlining the complaint: “The Hebron Fund has supported, either directly or indirectly, a wide array of acts that are definitely not charitable,” says John Tye, the Avaaz legal director, and notably, a former U.S. State Department whistleblower. “They are basically using a small group of Jewish settlers in the West Bank to push Palestinians out of their homes. These settlers are arming themselves, they are engaged in military and paramilitary acts, some of them have connections to terrorism, and they are committing a wide range of crimes against Palestinians.”

As the NPQ Newswire noted in its coverage of American philanthropic support to organizations promoting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress, American taxpayers support a range of organizations that themselves support settlers in various West Bank communities. A 2012 study by Eric Fleisch and Theodore Sasson is one of the few studies we have seen to examine U.S. giving to Israeli organizations through the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Federations of North America, various “friends-of” organizations, and pass-through intermediaries. Their analysis included U.S. donations to support the settlements broadly (through the One Israel Fund and the Central Fund of Israel, for example) as well as funds for specific settlements (such as the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, the Friends of Ir David, the American Friends of Ariel, and the Hebron Fund, to name a few).

Harkinson’s description of what is happening in Hebron reveals much about the dynamics of Israeli settlements, the displacement of Palestinians from homes, the IDF’s closing off of parts of the from Palestinians, and the hostile acts of the settlers themselves. It is a strategy that is followed in other settlements, the eviction of gradually increasing numbers of Palestinians and opening up more West Bank and East Jerusalem sites for settlements. The pace of Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank is not slowing. There are some 350,000 settlers living there, up almost a quarter million from a decade ago. Nick Kristof wrote in the New York Times recently about settlers’ displacement of Palestinians from agricultural lands in the West Bank. Although the Netanyahu government gives lip service to a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it looks to just about everyone that the settlements are not temporary, but meant to be permanent as part of a strategy that sounds more like a one-state future.

The Avaaz complaint focuses on the Hebron Fund’s support of one settlement and, as per Harkinson’s article, emphasizes the human rights violations of the settlers as the basis for the request to IRS that the Fund lose its charitable status. However, the bigger question is whether it is right for American taxpayers to receive charitable deductions for supporting organizations whose objectives and programs not only constitute human rights violations but violate international law regarding one nation’s occupation and usurpation of another.

James Patterson pledges $1.25 million to school libraries

March 10th, 2015  |  Source: Washington Post

Just a few months ago, James Patterson finished giving away $1 million to more than 175 independent bookstores nationwide. Now, the bestselling thriller writer is turning to schools with a similar grant program.

This morning, Patterson announced his plan to give away $1.25 million to school libraries. In partnership with children’s publisher Scholastic, he will make individual donations of $1,000 to $10,000. The money can be used for books, reading programs or even technology and repairs. Scholastic Reading Club has pledged to match each grant with bonus points that can be used for books and classroom materials.

“This is not a difficult approval process,” Patterson says. Librarians, teachers, administrators or anyone else can nominate a school libraryanywhere in the United States that serves students from pre-K through 12th grade. “Applicants just have to state what they would do with the money in 200-300 words. What could be easier? I try not to be arrogant in the sense that I know what’s good for everybody else: I simply ask the question: ‘How can I help?’” (Applications are due May 31, 2015.)

Patterson, who has sold more than 300 million copies of his books, including books for young readers, also funds annual scholarships at more than a dozen colleges and universities. He has designed this new program to maximize the number of school libraries that will get a piece of the $1.25 grant. “The smaller donations allow us to really help a lot of libraries in a lot of places,” he says. “It lifts morale. It allows the local school library to get publicity in the community, if it hopes to do so. And, most important of all, what I’m trying to do is shine a light on a much larger problem.”

In 2014, the American Library Association’s annual report warned that “school libraries continue to feel the combined pressures of recession-driven financial tightening and federal neglect.” The report went on to note: “School libraries in some districts and some states still face elimination or de-professionalization of their programs.”

Remembering his own childhood in New York, Patterson says, “Unfortunately, our grade school had no library, but my mother was a teacher there, and she dragged us to the Newburgh town library every weekend.”

E-Tailor Twillory's Re:Purpose Initiative

March 6th, 2015  |  Source:

Twillory, has created Re:Purpose a program designed to help those in need. The e-tailor has partnered with Career Gear, an organization committed to helping underprivileged men get back on their feet by providing professional clothing, mentoring and life-skills; the goal is to help improve their chances of finding gainful employment.

Twillory Founder, Asher Weinberger comes from a non-profit background, and notes "We thought long and hard about our charitable initiative. We wanted to galvanize our community, and have our customers actively engage in the giving process. It’s one thing when the company donates on your behalf. It’s another when the responsibility is passed along to the purchaser. When two people interact, something good should happen for a third person. That’s what Re:Purpose is all about. It’s so much more meaningful for the Twillory man to pick out an old shirt hanging in the back of his closet that he will never wear again, and know that it is going to a man in need.”

In keeping with that sentiment, Twillory has looked to simplify and streamline the process. Asher remarked, "For as long as we can remember, the status quo has been clothing drop boxes, and we felt that they needed a millennial upgrade. We’ve brought the dropbox to the consumer, along with a pre-paid mailer bag to make it easy. We inspect, launder and repackage donated goods for distribution. We joined forces with CareerGear, a forward thinking charity so that the re-purposed clothing will help the jobless, homeless, and disaster stricken. This is our version of enhanced social responsibility in business."

Partnering with CareerGear was a natural fit. "The RePurpose program is a fantastic alliance. It allows the Twillory customer to literally give the shirt off his back to a Career Gear client who has an upcoming interview, but cannot afford to purchase a new dress shirt. And it keeps clothing out of the landfills. So really, it’s a win - win - win for everyone.” said Gary Field, Founder/Executive Director of CareerGear. Fifteen years ago, Gary fit the profile of many of Career Gear’s clients – unemployed, recovering substance abuser, having just completed a job readiness program. He scraped together fifty dollars, bought a used suit for his interviews and successfully landed a job. Within five years, he completed his undergraduate studies, received a Master’s degree in social work and set about the business of helping men in similar positions get and keep satisfying jobs.

By the end of 2015, Twillory hopes to have at least 2,000 shirts donated via their customers. Armed with a new shirt through Twillory and mentorship via Career Gear, Twillory intends on giving hope to thousands of men in need, while growing the Twillory brand one customer at a time.

"Strange philanthropy"

March 6th, 2015  |  Source:

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but it can also make for "strange philanthropy," such as recent $1m gift of Newsmax founder Chris Ruddy to Clinton Foundation.

"He once wrote a book linking Bill and Hillary Clinton to an alleged cover up in the death of a White House lawyer, but judging by conservative newsman Christopher Ruddy’s recent pledge of $1 million to the once and potentially future first couple’s foundation, his opinion seems to have softened. Ruddy, the founder of the conservative website Newsmax, and author of the 1997 book, 'The Strange Death of Vincent Foster,' pledged the seven-figure sum over a five-year period, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Ruddy has been friends with the Clintons since 2007." -- Fox News

Credit to Reddit: Site Gives $827K to User-Chosen Nonprofits

March 3rd, 2015  |  Source: NPQ

As members of the House Judiciary committee begin their efforts to tilt at the windmill that is the recent FCC decision on Net Neutrality, which may culminate in an attempt by the Republicans to alter the Communications Act itself later this year, it’s a good time to give credit to elements of the online community that are taking praiseworthy action. (And, ideally, overshadow those who choose actions we’d like less to encourage.)

Last year, online conversation hub Reddit promised to “decimate” its ad revenue for 2014, giving 10 percent of its advertising take to nonprofits which would be chosen by the members of the Reddit community. On February 18th, they announced the final numbers; since they took in $8.27 million, ten organizations would receive $82,765.95 apiece. They opened the polls to the site’s users, known as “redditors,” who could use Charity Navigator to investigate potential options—any IRS-registered U.S.-based charity was eligible.

When voting closed on February 26th, the big winners were organizations dedicated to net neutrality, online privacy, and the free transmission of information. Topping the list was the Electronic Freedom Foundation, one of the active players in the fight for the Open Internet. The full list is as follows:

1.     Electronic Frontier Foundation

2.     Planned Parenthood Federation of America

3.     Doctors Without Borders, USA

4.    Erowid Center

5.    Wikimedia Foundation

6.    Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

7.    NPR

8.    Free Software Foundation

9.    Freedom From Religion Foundation

10.Tor Project Inc.

In the end, more than 250,000 votes were cast by more than 80,000 Reddit users. And it’s not just nonprofits who have expressed their gratitude to the site; President Obama wrote a letter by hand expressing his thanks for their efforts “helping keep the Internet open and free.”

New study shows online fundraising appeals to all age groups equally

March 2nd, 2015  |  Source: Miratel Inc.

When reviewing the various new nonprofit fundraising studies and reports every once in a while I stumble upon data that immediately makes me sit upright and pay extra attention because it counters what might be my own preconceived thoughts about the sector or contradict earlier analysis. A new study created by Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker certainly falls into that category and I think it might just surprise many of you reading also.

According to the study the percentage of donors aged 66 and above who made a donation online in 2014 has doubled from 29 percent in 2010 to 59 percent last year – a quite remarkable increase in just four years no matter what sort of adoption rate one is trying to measure. In fact the report even verifies the opposite of what I know is a widely held notion for many, in that the current rate of 59 percent is virtually identical to the 60 percent figure for those aged 65 and below.

In short it means that the age of a donor now has extremely little if any relationship to their likelihood of making an online donation to a nonprofit. The data itself certainly counters the vast majority if not all studies that I have read and written about over the last half decade. Rick Dunham , President and CEO of Dunham & Company said of the report:

“The trend of older donors giving online has definitely accelerated in the last two years. From our perspective, charities must seriously consider that an older donor is now just as likely to hop on to their website to give as a younger donor. This means charities must do all they can to optimize their website for ease of use as well as streamline the giving process to better serve these older donors, as donors over 60 are a prime demographic for giving.”

After digesting the data I gave it a little thought and in truth the lack of a discrepancy due to age demographics in online giving actually makes quite a lot more sense as opposed to the preconceived stereotypes which could just be based on data that is now out of date.

New GrantCraft Guide Helps Funders Navigate Capacity Building

February 26th, 2015  |  Source:

Suite of Related Resources Promotes Knowledge About Strengthening Nonprofit Organizations

A new guide released today by GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center, adds unique perspective on the ways foundations can boost organizational effectiveness of nonprofits.

Supporting Grantee Capacity: Strengthening Effectiveness Together helps grantmakers make informed decisions about enhancing the sustainability of nonprofits by making investments aimed at improving specific organizational capacities.

The guide illustrates thoughtful approaches to capacity building through real-world examples from funders of different sizes, missions, and geographies. Like other GrantCraft guides, it builds on the wisdom and experience of funders to spread knowledge and improve the practice of philanthropy. The guide is supplemented by more than 30 new GrantCraft resources and a special collection of case studies, white papers, and evaluations published by practitioners and experts in the field.

"'Capacity building' can carry many different meanings, but at its heart, it represents an investment aimed at strengthening effectiveness," says Jen Bokoff, director of GrantCraft at Foundation Center. "These resources synthesize insights derived from actual experience and provide a useful framework to help funders who may be just starting on this journey, as well as those looking to assess their investments so far."

The guide tackles many themes, including investment approaches, appraisal of funding opportunities, funder-grantee power dynamics, and evaluation of results. It blends data from interviews, focus groups, surveys, and a scan of existing literature to provide a comprehensive and in-depth view of the field. A unique aspect of the guide is its focus on the funder-grantee relationship, with importance placed on defining roles and expectations, establishing trust and open communications, and recognizing and analyzing the variables at play in capacity-building situations.

Throughout the report, there are "action steps" and hyperlinks to a wealth of related online content, including case studies and podcasts that animate topics presented in the guide.
A special collection of case studies, white papers, and evaluations builds on the topics explored in Supporting Grantee Capacity. This repository, which can be accessed, provides free and direct access to the experience and expertise of foundations and nonprofits that have shared lessons learned from their own capacity-building efforts.
Foundation Center is the leading authority on philanthropy. Its GrantCraft service offers guides, blogs, videos, and other media that address questions faced by funders in the United States and around the world. In the past year, it has published 30 new videos and podcasts, added an RSS feed of all new content, posted nine guided readings that facilitate conversations among colleagues on important topics, and translated 14 guides.

Supporting Grantee Capacity: Strengthening Effectiveness Together can be downloaded for free at, and the special collection can be accessed

Funding for this project was generously provided by the Open Society Foundations.

Anti-homeless spikes: ‘Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city’s barbed cruelty’

February 25th, 2015  |  Source: The Guardian

The spikes installed outside Selfridges in Manchester are the latest front in the spread of ‘defensive architecture’. Is such open hostility towards the destitute making all our lives uglier?

More than 100 homeless people are “living” in the terminals of Heathrow airport this winter, according to official figures – a new and shameful record. Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have warned that homelessness in London is rising significantly faster than the nationwide average, and faster than official estimates. And yet, we don’t see as many people sleeping rough as in previous economic downturns. Have our cities become better at hiding poverty, or have we become more adept at not seeing it?

Last year, there was great public outcry against the use of “anti-homeless” spikesoutside a London residential complex, not far from where I live. Social media was set momentarily ablaze with indignation, a petition was signed, a sleep-in protest undertaken, Boris Johnson was incensed and within a few days they were removed. This week, however, it emerged that Selfridges had installed metal spikes outside one of its Manchester stores – apparently to “reduce litter and smoking … following customer complaints”. The phenomenon of “defensive” or “disciplinary” architecture, as it is known, remains pervasive.

From ubiquitous protrusions on window ledges to bus-shelter seats that pivot forward, from water sprinklers and loud muzak to hard tubular rests, from metal park benches with solid dividers to forests of pointed cement bollards under bridges, urban spaces are aggressively rejecting soft, human bodies.

We see these measures all the time within our urban environments, whether in London or Tokyo, but we fail to process their true intent. I hardly noticed them before I became homeless in 2009. An economic crisis, a death in the family, a sudden breakup and an even more sudden breakdown were all it took to go from a six-figure income to sleeping rough in the space of a year. It was only then that I started scanning my surroundings with the distinct purpose of finding shelter and the city’s barbed cruelty became clear.

I learned to love London Underground’s Circle line back then. To others it was just the rather inefficient yellow line on the tube network. To me – and many homeless people – it was a safe, dry, warm container, continually travelling sometimes above the surface, sometimes below, like a giant needle stitching London’s centre into place. Nobody harassed you or moved you on. You were allowed to take your poverty on tour. But engineering work put a stop to that.

Next was a bench in a smallish park just off Pentonville Road. An old, wooden bench, made concave and smooth by thousands of buttocks, underneath a sycamore with foliage so thick that only the most persistent rain could penetrate it. Sheltered and warm, perched as it was against a wall behind which a generator of some sort radiated heat, this was prime property. Then, one morning, it was gone. In its place stood a convex metal perch, with three solid armrests. I felt such loss that day.

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." --

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