Nonprofit Newswire | June 24, 2009

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Foundations Trim Staffs After Assets Slide Lower
Jun 20, 2009; New York Times
| But which staff will being trimmed from philanthropy? At the Ford Foundation, according to the NYT reporter, salary cuts among the Foundation’s top management have been rejected, and the proposed severance packages are aimed at lower paid, support staff, with some implicit compulsion in the deal. Here’s what one employee noted: “‘Many of the people who got this package are support staff—women, single parents, African-Americans,’ said one employee who was offered a severance package but was unsure about taking it and thus requested anonymity. ‘These people have limited recourse because it’s been made fairly clear that if this isn’t accepted, the next offer, if there is one, will be much worse.’” —Rick Cohen

Madoff Client Jeffry Picower Netted $5 Billion—Likely More Than Madoff Himself
Jun 23, 2009; ProPublica | The nonprofit world has rued the collapse of the Picower Foundation which went belly up in the Madoff scandal. At one time among the 100 largest foundations in the nation, Picower had a good reputation for grantmaking in education, human rights, and reproductive rights, and in science on biomedical and brain/cognitive research. Now comes a ProPublica investigation that the Picower family itself had withdrawn over $5 billion from Madoff between 1998 and 2005, separately from the Picower Foundation account which only withdrew $291 million and spent on charitable grants $207 million during that time. So while the foundation was bankrupted by the Madoff scam, it appears that the Picowers, or at least paterfamilias Jeffry Picower, might have been huge beneficiaries of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The court papers note that there’s little or no evidence of how Picower spent or hid the $5 billion. One possible reading of the ProPublica piece would be Picower knew the deal and was playing the scheme to the hilt and then hiding the funds so that when the Madoff’s firm was uncovered, as it would eventually be, Picower’s take would be safe. Remember Emmett Carson’s point that “Foundations Owe Allegiance to the Social Systems that Created Them” [PDF]; in this case, one hopes that other foundations aren’t motivated quite the way Jeffry Picower is alleged to have been motivated. —Rick Cohen

Philanthropic Giving by and for Women on the Rise, Study Finds
Jun 23, 2009; Ascribe Newswire
| This one is no surprise. Women’s funds have been growing for a long time and continue to do so. The report suggests that philanthropic giving overall for women and girls is a still a small portion of total foundation grantmaking. However, it should be noted that women are disproportionately represented among foundation program officers, while other groups—racial and ethnic minorities, for example—are not. The strides that women have made in philanthropy should be applauded. Wouldn’t it be good to see similar strides made in terms of professional employment of African-Americans, Latinos, and other ethnic and racial groups in foundations, all of whom are incredibly underrepresented. Philanthropy’s support of women’s funds should be a model for philanthropic and charitable support of funds devoted to African-American issues (and donors), Latino issues (and donors), and Asian Pacific Islander issues (and donors). —Rick Cohen

News Experiments to Help Transform Community Life with $5.1 million from Knight Foundation
Jun 17, 2009; Knight News Challenge
| As newspapers are going under across the nation, with huge impacts on nonprofit coverage, by the way, the Knight Foundation seems to be a bulwark trying to infuse new capital into journalistic innovation.  Its 2009 Knights News Challenge winners (splitting $5.1 million in Knight grant awards) include support to the nonprofit ProPublica (which we often cite here at NPQ) for creating a new online searchable database of public records, to Katrin Verclas (who we’ve seen comment on Cohen Report postings, congratulations Katrin!) at MobileActive to help media organizations and citizen journalists around the world easily find the mobile devices and applications they need to create and broadcast local news reports, and to the Gotham Gazette to create a publicly accessible wiki on local legislators’ voting records and campaign contributions. Earlier, on June 15th, Editor & Publisher  reported on $15 million in Knight grant for investigative reporting, including “$1.32 million to the Center for Investigative Reporting ‘to launch a new multimedia investigative reporting project in California that encourages print, digital and student journalists to collaborate on stories’” as well as another $1 million to ProPublica to help create a sustainable business model for ProPublica’s investigative journalism work. The Knight grant awards should remind all of philanthropy how critical it is for foundations to put money into nonprofit journalism. As the for-profit side of journalism falters (for reasons ranging from the public’s changing news consumption habits to the economic impacts of the recession), the importance of nonprofit journalism—including journalism that covers the nonprofit sector—should be underscored. —Rick Cohen

A.P. in Deal to Deliver Nonprofits’ Journalism
Jun 13, 2009; New York Times
| NPQ does pay attention to issues in nonprofit journalism, and we note approvingly the commitment of the Associated Press (AP) to a six-month experiment to deliver work produced by four nonprofit entities—the Center for Public Integrity, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and ProPublica—to the 1,500 American newspapers that are A.P. members, which will then be able to republish the material at no cost. If this experiment works, maybe AP could begin looking to other outlets of nonprofit journalism of a smaller scale to circulate and republish their work as well. —Rick Cohen

The End of Investigative Journalism? Hardly, Judging by IRE Conference
Jun 18, 2009; Poynter Online
| Still on the topic of nonprofit journalism, Poynter Online points out that the nonprofit upstart got “mad love” at the recent IRE conference and investigative journalism icon Charles Lewis cited other nonprofit news outlets such as ProPublica and MinnPost as important parts of the “changing ecosystem” of journalism. Voice, by the way, won an IRE online investigative journalism award for its excellent series (noticed here at NPQ) on shady stuff occurring with contracting in the San Diego redevelopment system. —Rick Cohen

NYT Tech Columnist Violates Ethical Journalism Policies, Gets Wrist Slapped
Jun 22, 2009; The Business Insider
| How many nonprofit magazines, journals, newspapers, blogs have ethics policies governing what kinds of public speaking their writers and editors can do? This article raises one of the questions, about speaking before a group with a significant involvement in lobbying, where the issues might conflict with the reporter’s journalistic functions. However, we note at the end that Thomas Friedman of the Times is returning his $75,000 speaking fee for a talk to the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District. What was the Air Quality Management District doing paying 75 grand to Friedmann to talk about? Air quality? Hmm, a speaking fee of $75,000 is one great way of surviving low salaries at struggling newspapers. —Rick Cohen

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