Foundation Friday: Doin’ What Comes Naturally

The Nonprofiteer gets a giggle from the argument laid out here that there’s no need for proposed California legislation requiring foundations doing business in the state to report on the diversity of their staffs and Boards and the communities they fund, because foundations are already discussing the topic and the Council on Foundations has appointed a diversity officer. 

This work is too important, however, to leave to prescriptive
government intervention. We can do better when it comes to diversity —
and we will. But government reporting requirements are not the way to
get there.

Are we supposed to believe that what’s being described is a coincidence?–that legislators
just happened to charge in and demand a redundant accounting on
diversity while foundations were in the thick of healing themselves?

More likely, it is with diversity as it is with expenditure of university endowments: that nothing concentrates the mind so wonderfully as the prospect of being hanged, but the threat of legislative attention comes awfully close.  All those who believe that tuitions at elite institutions would have dropped naturally, without the grumblings of Senator Grassley and Company, please contact the Nonprofiteer for another free-market opportunity–one having to do with the purchase of a bridge in New York. 


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2 Responses to “Foundation Friday: Doin’ What Comes Naturally”

  1. Michael Seltzer Says:

    Dear Nonprofiteer:

    First of all, all my best wishes to The Nonprofiteer for a speedy recovery. I like you and many others in the nonprofit trenches am fighting off some type of virus.

    Second, thank you for commenting on my column on the pending California legislation on PhilanTopic.

    I am usually glad when something that I write touches a funny bone. However, that certainly was not my intent when I wrote my column on the proposed California legislation. The topic of diversity in this nation is too serious a matter for an unskilled comedian wannabe such as myself to address. In my wildest dreams, I am neither Margaret Cho nor Kate Clinton.

    I could quibble with your assertion that foundations are only taking action now to adopt more diverse practices, but that is not a key issue. I had simply wanted to acknowledge that many of us who have historically not been invited to sit at the philanthropic table have been agitating for making organized philanthropy more representative of the world we live in for close to three decades.

    The most pressing questions are: Is the pending California legislation the right strategy and if not, what is?

    In response to the first question, my answer is ‘absolutely not’. I have no confidence in the California legislature to do the right thing. Forgive this native New Yorker from choosing to make this assertion less than 24 hours after our governor, who was in charge of overseeing the state’s non-profits and foundations when he was attorney general, demonstrated how confidence in our elected officials can be misplaced.

    In response to the second question, we should be weighing a whole new set of strategies and acting on those that will most likely yield the results that we seek
    –a field where inclusive practices are integral to the effectiveness of all foundations.

    Most importantly, as Muhammad Yunnus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner would say, “let’s make poverty history” the compact for both philanthropy and every level of government.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    You’re absolutely right that legislation may not be the most effective way to improve philanthropies’ diversity, or their behavior with respect to achieving it. What I’ve come to appreciate, though (during these endless years of Republican dominance, when government action has been given such a bad name) is the extent to which the mere threat of government action–legislative or regulatory–can cause extra-governmental institutions to pay attention to issues they would rather ignore. I’d be more worked up about the possible unintended or damaging consequences of legislation if I expected it ever to be passed; but as long as there’s a free-market Republican in the California statehouse I wouldn’t expect too much government action on diversity or anything else.

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