The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy this week launched a new effort to undermine private philanthropy when it released its report “Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best.” Ostensibly, the report urges grant making institutions to do a better job of giving to minority communities and representing minorities on their boards. The report echoes the efforts of the Greenlining Institute last year to establish benchmarks in
Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing in the Wall Street Journal, does a good job of identifying what’s really going on here: The folks at NCRP and the Greenlining Institute want grant making institutions to become instruments of social change—with social change understood to be what they and other community organizing activists want, rather than what donors want. Riley writes:
What about the foundations founded to save whales or cure heart disease? Do they need to contribute to a participatory democracy? And who decides if a foundation is giving to a “marginalized” community anyway? The idea, put forward in the report, that giving grants to “large cultural or educational institutions” doesn’t benefit minorities is offensive. Black people don’t go to museums? Hispanics don’t go to college?
Looking at the recipients of some grants doesn’t tell you anything about who the real beneficiaries are. The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is devoted to reforming K-12 education. It gives plenty of grants to white men studying schools. But if these grants lead to real reforms, presumably the biggest winners will be racial minorities, who are most at the mercy of bad public education. Eric Osberg, vice president of Fordham, finds the idea behind the NCRP report “worrisome.” He says, “We see ourselves serving all communities by advocating more school choice, higher standards and better teachers in the classroom.”
The real agenda behind NCRP’s report is revealed by the recommendation that at least 25 percent of grant dollars be used for “advocacy, organizing and civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity and justice in our society.” In other words, they want private charities to donate more money to left wing activism. But, as Riley points out, pressuring all grant-making institutions to fit into the mold of NCRP’s diversity recommendations would make the world of philanthropy into a monolith. “[F]oundations are not legislatures, and their purpose isn’t to reflect the preferences of society as a whole. … What makes Americans give billions each year is not pressure from activists or government mandates. It is a diversity of interests, freely chosen and passionately pursued.”