Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

Council staff, consultants and I recently met with Senator Max Baucus of Montana who serves as chair of the Finance Committee. Three weeks ago, the Council’s CEO, Vikki Spruill, met with Representative Dave Camp, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee. These two men guide the tax writing committees that will decide what form, [...]

Inspirational and aspirational is how I would describe Building a More Inclusive Workforce: A National Summit to Boost Education and Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities, held last Friday in Wilmington, Del.
Collaborating with the U.S. Business Leadership Network and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, 2013 chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council cohosted this [...]

Florida foundations made their voices heard in Washington this week. Florida Philanthropic Network led a team of 12 Florida grantmakers for visits with Florida’s representatives and senators as part of the annual Foundations on the Hill event on March 19-20, 2013. The event was co-sponsored by the Council on Foundations, the Forum of Regional Associations of [...]

When my class (The Philanthropy Workshop West) arrives, a light snow dusts the ground and U.S. President #44, Barack Obama, has just been sworn in for a second term. As we progress through a week of presentations, spring thaws early and soft rains fall, cleansing our cynical capital and washing away [...]

Last week, I predicted that the itemized deduction could soon be back on the table as Congress looks for ways to raise revenue. It may not have been a great leap to predict that, but my crystal ball is working: Yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced a February 14 hearing [...]

Living inside the Washington beltway must be a profoundly disorienting experience. Maybe there’s something in the Potomac River, maybe it’s just too much time in the world’s most self-absorbed echo chamber, or maybe it’s just the pressure of too much traffic. Honestly, I don’t know.
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Right now the debate on the fiscal cliff is consuming mainstream media and all conversations in Washington, D.C. Deficit reduction, the cliff, and tax reform all have major implications for philanthropy. Here are the three issues the Council on Foundations is watching and will continue to monitor for you in the days ahead.
1. Maintain the [...]

The timing of the November 12 session, “A Look Forward on Tax Reform,” during the Public Policy Action Institute at Independent Sector’s annual conference could not have been more critical. It provided an important opportunity for attendees to get a clear sense of the urgency and potential impact our sector faces as the Obama Administration [...]

Yesterday, Americans cast their vote for the future course of our nation. Many of our fellow citizens affected by Hurricane Sandy endured much more difficulty than normal in voting, some using flashlights to see their ballots. Their resolve and resiliency is a tribute to the American spirit and reminds us all of our freedom to [...]

America’s charities face a brewing crisis with the upcoming comprehensive tax reform debate that is almost certain to envelop our nation. As Congress searches for ways to close the growing national debt, the charitable tax deduction is included in the “everything” often mentioned in the phrase “everything is on the table.”
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Though the scalding heat of summer is likely to last for at least another month in Arkansas, the summer season is ending for many students as they prepare to return to school. As these students soon will do, funders and government staff recently gathered with sharpened pencils to learn together at Foundations 101.

Cosponsored by the [...]

This fall’s CCFE public policy seminar for community foundations will be hosted in New Mexico. The seminar is intended to provide community foundation leaders with the necessary skills and tools to advocate and engage in public policy on behalf of the philanthropic sector. As a faculty member facilitating the CCFE course, it will be my [...]

It’s the time of year when we begin to think about the new Congress and our legislative agenda at the Council on Foundations. To help us get started, I am asking for your support by filling out the Philanthropic Policy Priorities Survey. The responses to the survey will allow the Public Policy Committee and government [...]

Every year at the Fall Conference for Community Foundations, members of the Council’s government relations and legal team provide a legislative and regulatory update, including implications for the philanthropic sector. In addition, they offer tips on how to navigate the sometimes muddy political waters and discuss how community foundation colleagues are partnering at the federal, [...]

Following the success of Kentucky’s inaugural Foundations 101 meeting, I was part of a group of several funders in Alabama who joined together earlier this month to reach out to the local staffs of our elected officials for our own 101 session.
Unlike the barnstorming meetings some of us attend each year during Foundations on the [...]

For each new session of Congress, the Council on Foundations prepares a legislative agenda detailing issues of importance to the philanthropic sector. The goal is to (1) partner with elected officials for the betterment of the communities we serve, (2) encourage and support philanthropic giving, and (3) more effectively serve the needs of our sector.
Even [...]

Should Congress direct 80 percent of the upcoming Clean Water Act civil fine from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to coastal ecosystem restoration and rebuilding local economies in the coastal regions of the affected States (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida)? If you live and work in those areas, the answer is yes.
Our discovery [...]

How should a mid-sized foundation position its initiatives in this age of austerity and how can one county and community foundation influence state-level decisions? These are questions that the Erie Community Foundation asked when it planned an early childhood education initiative more than a year ago, knowing that it would not be able to increase [...]

As the CEO of the Community Foundation of Louisville, I travel to Washington, D.C., each year and make the rounds as part of Foundations on the Hill, supported by the Council on Foundations and the Southeastern Council of Foundations. For most of us, this journey is a sprint, since we visit dozens and dozens of [...]

I didn’t go to “Foundations on the Hill” (FOTH) but was there in spirit through the data and stories collected by FSG and CF Insights. On March 21-22 representatives of organized philanthropy gathered in Washington, D.C., for two days of face-to-face meetings with lawmakers and their staff.
For a taste of the experience and why it [...]

Florida Philanthropic Network led a team of 14 Florida grantmakers to Washington, D.C., on March 21-22, 2012, for visits with Florida’s full 27-member congressional delegation and their staffs, as part of the annual Foundations on the Hill event, which was co-sponsored by the Council on Foundations and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. At [...]

As foundations work to foster and build relationships with their elected officials and staff, both at home in their districts, 2012 presents a rare challenge to keep in mind: redistricting. The person who is your congressional representative today may not represent you a year from now. New York is losing two congressional seats. Texas is [...]

My badge at Foundations on the Hill last week sported a blue ribbon that read “First-time Attendee.” Ah, a newbie, fresh face, initiate. Welcome to Washington.
My two-day Capitol adventure got underway Wednesday morning with a series of panels and briefings hosted by the Alliance for Charitable Reform. From the “labyrinth of transparency” to L3Cs and [...]

Over 200 foundations across the United States, next week will converge on D.C. to strengthen partnerships among the philanthropic and public sectors. In our fourth consecutive year, KDK-Harman Foundation, will participate in the annual Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) public awareness campaign aimed at voicing the importance of a vibrant philanthropic sector with federal representatives.
“Throughout [...]

There has never been a more challenging time for philanthropy. Globalization, natural disasters, and economic turmoil have placed additional stresses on social safety nets already stretched to the max. In this environment, the philanthropic sector must be smarter, more adaptable, and more collaborative.
None of us has all the answers, but some innovative approaches to giving [...]

Florida Philanthropic Network is pleased to once again be leading the state’s delegation to Washington, D.C., for Foundations on the Hill (FOTH), March 21-22. Although we coordinate visits with our members of Congress back in their home districts throughout the year, FOTH is a critical part of our annual public policy engagement work.
Because Florida is [...]

I admit it. I’m a policy wonk who happens to serve a foundation that understands the importance of public policy and advocacy work. We consider weighing in where our participation may be a catalyst for positive change in our state, our region, and our nation. That’s why the annual trek to Washington, D.C., for Foundations [...]

“If we are not at the table, we run the risk of being on the menu.” How I remember that comment from last year’s Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Sure enough, we had a close call this past season with efforts to trim the charitable deduction. This alone provides a major incentive for CMF and [...]

On March 21-22, organized philanthropy will gather in Washington, D.C., for Foundations on the Hill, two days of face-to-face meetings with our nation’s legislators.
It’s important that you be there. Shrinking government budgets put an ever-brighter spotlight on foundations. To some in Washington, we’re a big pile of cash waiting to be spent. To others, we [...]

Many observers view 2012 as a year when little will get done legislatively, as the candidates and political parties jockey for position in advance of the presidential election. Contrary to that opinion, this year is actually a huge opportunity for interested parties-like foundations-to build relationships with key policymakers and their staffs in advance of the [...]

The call came to West Central Initiative early in the work day on Dec. 17: Minnesota was one of nine states chosen for the Department of Education’s Race to the Top early childhood challenge grant.
We greeted the news with excitement. West Central Initiative is part of a group of Minnesota organizations that [...]

Responding to Demand
It can be frustrating to look for useful bits of information on grantees and strong programs inside an agency that produces large amounts of data each and every day. Since its inception two years ago, our Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (IPI) has fielded a variety of requests from funders seeking alignment [...]

In America, the debate lumbers on about the best way to coordinate the philanthropic sector and the U.S. government. Meanwhile, one post-conflict West African country has jumped right in — the Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat is the fruit of collaboration between President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and private foundations. It is the world’s only national government office dedicated [...]

My trip last week to Washington, D.C., was easy and productive thanks to the Council’s great government relations team. I wanted to meet with members and staff of Montana’s congressional delegation to brief them on our transfer of wealth study and some new information we have about population changes in our state. All of that [...]

As lawmakers continue to wrestle with options to reduce the federal deficit, philanthropic leaders are finding themselves defending the status quo. Recently, the Senate Finance Committee received testimony from philanthropic leaders and researchers on incentives for charitable giving and options for tax reform. Although the panelists were prepared for specific questions from committee members, I [...]

Riding the train home to Washington, D.C., after a meeting in New York City earlier this week, I found myself immersed in a New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell, “The Tweaker: The Real Genius of Steve Jobs.” The article contended that the real genius of Jobs was not in creating something new, but rather in tweaking [...]

Given the prolonged economic crisis, individuals and families are increasingly making difficult choices between urgent needs such as housing, medical care, and food. A new California state law that removes unnecessary paperwork and fingerprint requirements for those eligible to receive food stamps will help make some of these choices a little easier.
Last month, Gov. Jerry [...]

Being a fall associate at the Council on Foundations comes with a steep learning curve. One of the areas I knew the least about was community foundations. First, what is a community foundation? Second, and more important, how can community foundations make an impact on policy at the state and federal levels and what can [...]

Living Cities, one of the more impressive foundation collaboratives still in existence, celebrated its 20th anniversary late last month. I was lucky, having been involved tangentially at the birth of Living Cities, when it was emerging from the thinking of a handful of national foundations plus two national community development financial intermediaries, the Enterprise Foundation [...]

Corporate philanthropy functions are increasingly emphasizing return on investment (RoI) in their grantmaking. Understandably, corporate foundations want to use their funding, energy, and time as effectively as possible. But for the Pfizer Foundation, evaluation is a tool to help refine our grantmaking, not an end in itself.
At the Pfizer Foundation, we support our grantees’ experimentation and [...]

Because I am a public official in the federal government at a conference dedicated to the nonprofit sector, some of my fellow conference-goers may have wondered whether my cab driver took me to the wrong convention center. But I assure you this is where I am supposed to be.
I am here because my team and [...]

What does a foundation do when pollution poses an immediate health threat to the community and the nonprofits there to help aren’t connected to each other?
Consider what’s happened in the Greater Buffalo area, a passageway for 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply-and home to the first U.S. Superfund site. The region’s industrial heritage [...]

Representatives from Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation, J. Marion Sims Foundation, The Duke Endowment, The Spartanburg Community Foundation, The Springs Close Foundation and Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina met with Representative James Clyburn (D-SC6) at his district office in Columbia. Assistant Minority Leader Clyburn is one of 12 appointees on the new congressional [...]

Earlier this year, Americans for Community Development held its inaugural conference, “L3C A to Z,” in Evanston, Ill., to educate nonprofits on Low-Profit Limited Liability Companies (L3Cs) and the advantages they provide for those pursuing program-related investments (PRIs). At the opening plenary, I served on a panel, along with Robert Lang and Max Martin, on [...]

Since China’s Deng Xiaoping embraced the Open Door Policy in 1978, the Chinese economy has witnessed astonishingly rapid growth, leapfrogging Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy. Along with a vertical increase in the number of billionaires (China trails only the United States now), the number of Chinese private foundations has increased from 202 in [...]

Last Thursday marked the official kick-off of KDK-Harman Foundation’s involvement in District Days, a nationwide outreach campaign to connect with policymakers at all levels of government to engage in crucial conversations. The result of these conversations is to inform decision makers about the state of our communities and give them on-the-ground perspectives of how decisions [...]

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told foundation officials working in rural America that he needs to understand better what they do, while the foundation officials discussed how they could work more closely with the federal government and proposed a rural philanthropy growth act that would provide federal challenge grants to communities to develop their own foundations [...]

Tooth decay-almost 100 percent of which is preventable-is the most prevalent chronic disease in children aged 5-17 and a growing phenomenon among very young children, especially those in low-income and minority households.
Poor oral health is a serious issue and can often lead to a lifetime of painful, costly medical issues and diminished educational attainment. Ten [...]

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that he would ask the White House Rural Council to try to reduce the number of federal government definitions of rural America and also encouraged Congress to take up the issue since rural officials have complained they have a hard time figuring out what programs they qualify for.
After a [...]

One of the great things about being Secretary of Agriculture is that I get to see first-hand how truly vast our great nation is.  It’s been my privilege to represent USDA and President Obama from Alaska to Florida and from North Dakota to New Mexico.  Of course, I also spend quite a bit of time [...]

Using the work of the National Rural Funders Collaborative (NRFC) as the lead-in to a plenary speech by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was a serendipitous scheduling choice at the Council on Foundations Rural Philanthropy Conference. NRFC is closing down after 10 years. Unlike other programs that seem to institutionalize themselves past their intended shutdown dates, [...]

Sitting through this week’s Rural Philanthropy Conference, one hears many sidebar conversations worth mentioning:

Understanding outside funding: Did Ford or Kellogg money funds “create” the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF) transfer of wealth strategy? No. Nebraskans generated the ideas, conceptual framework, and infrastructure for NCF’s approach. Ford funding for example allowed NCF to, as we were told, [...]

In the realms of rural philanthropy, the Nebraska Community Foundation’s Jeff Yost is something of the avatar of how community foundations can identify, find, and tap rural philanthropic assets.  What are rural philanthropic assets in a part of this nation that some would say has a difficult time attracting and capturing investment capital from government, [...]

As I recently wrote in a guest column in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, timing is everything. Right now, philanthropy is in danger of missing out on a timing opportunity in rural America, where the peak transfer of wealth will occur in the coming years. If we, as the philanthropic sector, sit idly by and do [...]

While America’s slow economic recovery continues and Washington policymakers grasp at ideas to drive down joblessness and drive up growth, philanthropy is doing its part to address the jobs challenge. That was the message conveyed by several sector leaders to members of Congress, their staffs, and workforce policy leaders during a congressional briefing last week.
With [...]

Two recent Council on Foundations events in Battle Creek, Mich. (Regional Learning Forum and Public Policy for Community Foundations Course), produced rich discussions regarding the capacities and roles of community foundations. A Lew Feldstein communication (2009) suggests that, similar to earthworms, “the Foundation’s job is to build the soil, to enrich the ground in which [...]

The debate about whether or not charities should legally be able to compensate those who serve on their boards is an important, if not new, discussion. The most recent iteration of this conversation comes courtesy of a proposal to ban director compensation by public charities in Massachusetts. The legislation is being championed by Martha Coakley, [...]

Unlike other tax incentives-for buying a home, installing energy-efficient windows, or buying a fuel-efficient car-the charitable deduction is unique in that it rewards behavior that, by definition, provides no direct benefit to the individual. Whatever options are on the table for tax reform, the tax code should continue to encourage the selfless act of giving [...]

Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) and many of our partners in the philanthropy community mobilize philanthropic leadership, ideas, and resources, and seek opportunities for collaboration, including public-private partnerships. This work is as challenging as it is important, but now the philanthropic sector has a new and engaged partner in the federal government: the Social Innovation [...]

On the same day that the federal government announced that unemployment had ticked up a notch to 9 percent, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) convened a bipartisan panel of former policy-makers on Capitol Hill for a spirited discussion about the lessons to be drawn from the 40-year history of federal workforce development [...]

Welcome to RE: Philanthropy! In this blog, guest and Council bloggers share ideas and insights on the most pressing issues in philanthropy. If you want to contribute, please contact

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Council on Foundations.


Ken Sternad
Helen Brunner
Vanessa Cedeño
Susan Swan Smith
Karen Archer Perry and Chauncy Lennon
Ellen Remmer
Alexis Raymond
Debra Mesch
Sarita Venkat
Allison Lugo Knapp
Debra Jacobs
Andrew Allen
MLea Davis
David Matthew
Paul Penley
Neville Vakharia
Nicole Robinson
Ellen Carter
Torrey Van Antwerp DeKeyser
Heather Lord
Lynn Broaddus
Nichole Baker
Kevin F. Walker
Janelle Harris
Denise Spencer
Suzanne Skees
Lisa Jordan
Trabian Shorters
Tim Wilmot
Linda Reed
Diane Miller
Amanda St. Pierre
Jillian C. Vukusich
Dale Robinson Anglin
Aaron Dorfman
Sophia Guevara
Craig Muska
Robert S. Collier
David Wood
Dana Nelson
Ryan Ginard
Joop Rubens
Kim Embretson and Tom McSparron
Diana Sieger
Lyle Matthew Kan
Diana Esposito
Sherry Ristau
Audrey Jacobs
Ruth Ann Norton
Marika Lynch