Comment Of The Day On The Unethical Political Squeeze On Non-Profits And Foundations [Open Forum]

Veteran commenter Humble Talent contributed a needed post on an important issue that Ethics Alarms has negligently ignored: the efforts by ideologically drive governments to control the charitable activities of non-profit organizations. The phenomenon extends well beyond the aspect HT discusses: I encountered it with my non-profit theater company. We stubbornly refused to allow grant money to determine our artistic choices, but most theaters were not so resolute. Companies that choose trendy progressive ideology-advancing plays and that cast according to thinly disguised minority group quotas get the money, and letting money drive are leads to bad art: it’s one of many reasons I decided to close the American Century Theater’s doors.

Humble’s Comment of the Day, from this Open Forum, is a cautionary tale. Here it is:


I’m on the board of a Community Foundation associated with The Community Foundations of Canada (CFC). The CFC recently had a change in leadership after a wave of retirements, and the new leadership is, not to put too fine a point on it, insufferably woke. Every meeting is predicated by a litany of talk about personal privilege and land declarations. Every new initiative includes language about anti-racism or the importance of DIE. It’s creating issues.

Community foundations operate endowment funds. We take in dollars from our donors, invest them wisely, steward the money, and disburse the proceeds net our expenses into our community. We are non-profits, so we’re tax exempt, and that’s wonderful, but it comes with some requirements: Regardless of how well the market does, we are required by law to disburse at least 3.5% of our funds back into the market on an annual basis. That’s referred to as the “Disbursement Quota” or DQ. We’ve always done better than that. Our positions are public, and we disburse on average 4.5% going back to the community (it varies a little) and budget a .75% management fee for overhead (mostly staff), which we’re never over. Depending on by how much we beat budget, we treat the difference as a kind of emergency fund for out-of-cycle disbursements (we recently hired a translator for the middle school from that pool). We fund investments to the local hospital, the schools, the golf course, the local theatre, the museum, kids sports, social groups, the Salvation Army… The list goes on. In an average year we’ll have maybe 50 requests and depending on the specific asks and our capacity, about 2/3 of them will get at least partially funded.

This, we are told, is not enough. We are hoarding treasure, we are told. We are underserving our communities, we are told. Regardless of how the donors directed their funds, we should ignore their wishes and find some brown people to give money to, we are told… Perhaps not so directly, but I shit you not, that’s the spirit of that has been said. Last year, the government of Canada bandied the idea about of raising the DQ from 3.5% to 5%, or even 10%. In response, the CFC, who is supposed to represent us, said: “Yes please Mr. Government, please pillage our funds. Please fund your short term political aspirations out of our funds and destroy what community-minded people have spent a lifetime building.”

I kid, of course, they didn’t say that. What they said was, and I quote:

“The disbursement quota was created to make sure charities were moving resources to address societal needs. Many conversations around the disbursement quota have been debating percentages. Should it be 3.5%? 5%? 10%?

These conversations tend to be reductive and risk being a distraction at a moment when the federal government can play a critical role in better enabling philanthropic organizations to meet the needs of their communities now and into the future.”

Again… We’re free to go above the 3.5%. We do this consistently already, in fact, raising the DQ to 5% probably won’t impact us all that much. The problem is that not all community foundations are as established as we are, and a DQ increase will hurt them and create barriers to future foundations starting up. The other issue is that we’re supposed to manage our funds…. There are years where the market does poorly. See: This year, as an example. In years like this, we try to fundraise the difference between our disbursements and our revenues, but if we can’t, the fund just shrinks. CFC is literally asking the Feds to take away our ability to manage our funds because they don’t think we’re doing enough.

What’s the alternative? They’ve couched this in the language of “giving tools” to “challenge” us to do more, but they’re still saying the quiet part out loud. The reality is they aren’t giving us new tools, they’re taking tools away. The reality is that they *are* challenging us, but that’s not their fucking job, and frankly, they don’t know our markets. They don’t know the names of our communities, they didn’t look at where the disbursements went, they just have the perpetutal response from progressives: “More! More! More!”

Never thinking, always hand to mouth. Like a toddler with Prader-Willi syndrome.

We pay membership fees to them. To represent us. Meanwhile, they seem addicted to Liberal policy prescriptions, and have a very comfortable relationship with a certain Liberal senator who likes to refer to our funds as “public dollars in private hands”.

This has created something of a firestorm. No one liked that. And now we’re having discussions about whether we want to continue funding the CFC. The Calgary Community Foundation, holder of a $1.2 billion fund which represented about 15% of the funds under CFC’s umbrella, and the CFC is panicking. They held a town hall meeting yesterday, and it was disheartening. The presenters were reading scripts like a hostage statement. Questions from the group were generally very blunt and pointed, the support from the group read wasn’t substantive, and also seemed very prepared. They ended up cutting the last 20 minutes of Q&A off the end and not actually answering questions.

So do we withdraw? Cards on the table, we might. The math is that we pay the CFC $X in membership fees, for that X dollars, we are given access to special government throughputs. Throughputs aren’t necessarily in line with the mandate of a community foundation, but if we didn’t get the throughputs, our community wouldn’t either, and we do have a mandate to act towards what’s good for the community, within reason. Those throughputs in the last two years were approximately 50*$X. That’s a little unusual, but generally, there’s enough there that it’s a good deal. Against that though… It doesn’t matter if we get 50*$X in 2021 if by 2041 there is no fund. The difference between 3.5% and 5% is whether the endowments grow or stagnate in your average year, and the difference between 5% and 10% is whether the fund stagnates or shrinks in your average year. At 10%, on a long enough scale, our disbursements will equal 10% of what’s left in a very small fund plus whatever we can fundraise in a given year…. Which will basically make us a throughput…. and at that point, if the donors could just pay their $50,000 directly to the hospital, why involve the middleman? Our management fees would eventually scrape away at what was left, because even if we worked with volunteers, there are things like rent, utilities and finance fees that we just can’t get away from, and eventually we fold. Do we want to give people actively campaigning for that the legitimacy of saying they represent us?

And that grates. Because, again…. The CFC was created in a different time. There are so many more community organizations now – We all have our own priorities, we all have our own cultures, and if the responses from the water-carriers are any indication, some of them are *very* different than others. There are massive barriers to entry, and because of the government’s hostility to the model, they’re only getting worse.

Which means that if these fucking wokesters manage to break up the CFC because their priorities in the name of their political ideology is so far removed from their actual mandate, at the end of the day, they’ll be able to sit proudly on their throne of ash, having “dismantled” yet another institution without a plan going forward, one of the better tools in our arsenal will just be gone, and they’ll move on to the next project with a tragic lack of self awareness.

3 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day On The Unethical Political Squeeze On Non-Profits And Foundations [Open Forum]

  1. HT Wrote, “…at the end of the day, they’ll be able to sit proudly on their throne of ash, having “dismantled” yet another institution without a plan going forward, one of the better tools in our arsenal will just be gone, and they’ll move on to the next project with a tragic lack of self awareness.”

    That is a profoundly accurate statement that describes the “purity” of 21st century progressivism.

    I hope HT doesn’t mind me bastardizing and extrapolating his statement a bit. Here’s my reworded version of that statement for generic use where you can just fill in the blank with the person, place, thing that progressivism is destroying…

    “At the end of the day, totalitarian progressivism activists, requiring their usual hive-minded complete subservience, will sit proudly on their throne of ash having destroyed _______________ for a lack of progressive purity and then, without using a shred of common sense, critical thinking or logic, they’ll move on to their next impure target with a tragic lack of self awareness.”

    Society and culture are constantly under “attack” from progressivism. It’s crystal clear to me that progressivism activists are out to destroy anything and everything that they consider the status quo all in the name of change which seems to be their Holy doctrine. Progressivism is literally anti status quo no matter what any specific status quo happens to be at that moment in time. If something exists as a current “status quo” then it’s anti-progressive (see their Holy doctrine above) and evil and therefore must be destroyed. Progressives considers their Holy doctrine of ideological changes to be an improvement to society and culture and anyone that opposes their Holy doctrine changes is obviously evil. Progressivism is a hive-minded cult.

    Remember Obama’s words calling progressivism activists to action during his Presidential campaign in 2008…

    “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

    Well folks we are reaping the societal and cultural fallout of that call to action and we now have irrational progressivism activists actively trying to fundamentally change the USA, and the world, and they’re doing everything they can to implement their irrational anti status quo social and cultural changes regardless of their lack of common sense, critical thinking or logic. Progressivism is an enemy to the underlying status quo that has helped make and maintain the USA for well over 200 years. Progressivism is an enemy of civility. Progressivism is an enemy of the status quo. Progressivism is an enemy of logic. Progressivism is an enemy of critical thinking. Progressivism is an enemy of common sense. Progressivism is an enemy of the Constitution and therefore, progressivism is an enemy of the people.

    Progressivism activists sure seem to want to burn it all to the ground and replace it with their form of “purity”. They seem to think that “you will be assimilated, resistance is futile”.

  2. “The Calgary Community Foundation, holder of a $1.2 billion fund which represented about 15% of the funds under CFC’s umbrella, and the CFC is panicking.”

    Even after cleaning it up once…. The CCF *withdrew* and that’s what caused the panic.

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