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.” Continue reading