Change, Not Charity" is a growing sentiment among innovative
Magazine asked nonprofit leader
Michael O'Neill about Bill Gates' $15 million donation
to Harvard and David Packard's donations to Stanford,
O'Neill asserted, "That's not exactly rocket science in
terms of philanthropy. I'd hope they'd give some of their
brilliance to philanthropy, not just shovel tens of millions
of dollars to organizations that already have billions
of dollars in assets." In contrast to traditional contributions
to symphonies, universities, and museums, many funders
today argue that we should direct more money to advocacy
groups seeking social change.
change," however, means vastly different things to different
people. The Coors family is a good example. They have
been a powerful force for social change--through their
funding and through the family's active participation
on the boards of advocacy organizations seeking to restructure
public policy. As investigative journalist Russ Bellant
points out in his book
The Coors Connection: How Coors
Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism,
"the Coors family aids and abets a network of conservative
and far-right groups including those which seek to turn
back civil rights, destroy trade unions, disregard the
fragility of the environment, and promote racial bigotry,
homophobia, male supremacy... [and] a belligerent foreign
policy that has claimed lives in Nicaragua,
South Africa, and other countries."
Coors family is not alone.
In Moving A Public Policy
Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations,
a report prepared for the National Committee on Responsive
Philanthropy, Sally Covington examines the giving of twelve
family foundations--including the Bradley, Scaife, and
Olin foundations. Between 1992 and 1994, these twelve
foundations controlled assets of $1.1 billion and awarded
more than $210 million in grants.
a small drop in the sea of annual giving by mainstream
foundations, the strategic grantmaking of these family
foundations has garnered them unmatched success in advocating
a right-wing political agenda and setting the terms of
the national public policy debate.
to Covington, "the heavy investments that conservative
foundations have made in new right policy and advocacy
institutions have helped to create a supply-side version
of American politics in which policy ideas with enough
money behind them will find their niche in the political
marketplace regardless of existing citizen demand."
Stefancic and Richard Delgado, the authors of
How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's
deplore the aims of right-wing foundations,
yet admire their effectiveness. According to Stefancic
and Delgado, "the dedication, economy of effort, and sheer
ingenuity of much of the conservative machine are extraordinary."
They argue, however, that right-wing funders "have no
monopoly on brains or money." What's needed, they say,
is a little more "ingenuity, planning, and hard work"
among funders with a different vision of social renewal.
They point out that the majority of large liberal family
foundations have avoided funding projects that make explicit
political statements; a cadre of conservative foundations
have not. To be successful, liberal and progressive funders,
as well as other conservatives, would do well to learn
strategic lessons from effective right-wing foundations.
spells out seven of these lessons in her report. Grantmakers
must: 1) understand the importance of ideology and overarching
frameworks; 2) help build strong institutions by providing
ample general operating support; 3) maintain a national
policy focus and concentrate resources on a few winnable
issues; 4) recognize the importance of media, marketing,
and persuasive communications; 5) support public intellectuals
and policy leaders; 6) fund multiple social change strategies
including advocacy, leadership development, and constituency
mobilization; and 7) take a long-haul approach. As she
notes, "much can be accomplished given clarity of vision
and steadiness of purpose."
Chase, managing editor
The Coors Connection: How Coors Family
Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism
South End Press, 1991. Sally Covington,
Moving A Public
Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative
DC: National Committee
on Responsive Philanthropy, 1997. Available for $25 from
NCRP, 2001 S Street NW, #620, Washington, DC 20009; 202-387-9177.
Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado,
No Mercy: How Conservative
Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda
Temple University Press, 1996.
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