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The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)

March 20, 2009



The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) released its most recent report, Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact. The paper discusses how philanthropic institutions are timid when providing for the greater good. These organizations have under minded the beneficial impact that they can achieve by improving the overall condition of many communities in need. The article aims to answer the following questions. ” 1) What differentiates an exemplary foundation from the rest of its peers? 2) What can foundations do to improve its relevance to nonprofits, the economically and socially underserved Americans and society as a whole?” This article provided a set of guidelines to improve charitable giving and focused on the idea that private institutions should direct more of their attention to the needs of impoverished populations.

The pressure to get more philanthropies to help the poor and minority populations has generated the most controversy and comes on the heels of similar advocacy efforts in California and other states. According to three years of giving data from over 800 grant makers, the organization said that only 13 percent of the foundations it examined meet its criteria for giving and that 1 out of every 3 grant dollars benefits “lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined.” “This is, frankly, appalling, and it must improve if foundations are going to be relevant to addressing the most important problems facing our nation,” said Aaron Dorfman, the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, during a press event to announce the standards. He said his organization wants to trigger a debate about how foundations should operate, especially today during a recession when charities and many people are strapped for cash.

NCRP was backed by over 120 organizations and received much support from the House Ways and Means Committee however, they have received strong opposition from organizations who argue that it is impractical and impossible to enforce guidelines for all philanthropic organizations to follow. CEO Steve Gunderson of Council on Foundations says,”[While] the council supports the diversity of philanthropy…we cannot endorse mandates or imposed measures that seek to promote a one-size-fits-all approach.”

The guidelines proposed by NCRP in keeping with their idea of promoting social benefits, lay out some strict requirements for philanthropic organizations. This has sparked a debate amongst philanthropic leaders and donors. Some argue that the NCRP is “forcing” charitable foundations to donate at least 50% of grant money to marginalized communities regardless of the organization’s mission and goals. It is true that donations provide a tax shelter, and that might allow NCRP to have leverage. However, people who give money because they believe in a cause do not want to be told where to give and how the money must be used.

I agree that this will decrease “philanthropic freedom” and decrease the number of pioneering and novel ideas that spring from the philanthropic sector of society. On the other hand, donations are used to support those in need, so in some way the money does flow to the minority/at risk sectors.

What are your thoughts? If you were to know that nearly half of the money you donate would go towards supporting a mandatory program, would it affect your giving to South Asian charitable foundations?

– P

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