Nonprofit Newswire | July 3, 2009

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Attorney: Nonprofit acted legally in selling Sugarhill Apartments AIDS facility
Jul 2, 2009; Miami Today | We covered in some earlier newsclips this story about the apparently unauthorized sale of a subsidized housing development (for AIDS victims) by a Miami nonprofit called  Minorities Overcoming the Virus through Education, Responsibility and Spirituality. It’s pretty clear that MOVERS knew it was selling a property that was supposed to be affordable housing for people with AIDS for at least 10 years. But it also appears that the City may have failed to include written covenants with the original sale of Sugarhill apartments to the nonprofit in the first place.  The lawyer for MOVERS suggests that that failure absolves his client of the requirement to notify the city about the pending sale and other things.  That doesn’t wash here. If the city failed to include the covenants when it originally transferred the property to MOVERS, that’s stupid on the city’s part (and the current director of community development sort of acknowledges that the requirement to place covenants on properties given or sold for affordable housing is of more recent vintage than the original Sugarhill disposition to MOVERS). But MOVERS has (or had) a mission of serving people with AIDS. Selling the property and kicking out tenants with AIDS seems to be a violation of the mission, city covenant or none. Rick Cohen

Nonprofit World Debates New Social-Innovation Fund
Jul 1, 2009; The Chronicle of Philanthropy News Updates | According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “The nonprofit world is applauding President Obama’s Social-Innovation Fund, which he officially announced the creation of yesterday.” It’s a large nonprofit sector, 1.8 million strong, and hard to imagine that they’ve all lined up behind the White House vision which, as we reported earlier this week, ignored old-line tried and true nonprofits in favor of newer social entrepreneurs. What, the older groups don’t have good ideas and promising practices? Hardly. There’s some element of politics going on here, who lobbied whom to get into the front tier of groups recognized by the White House.  Let’s hope the older, proven nonprofits that have been delivering for their communities for years, for decades, don’t get left by the wayside as insufficiently innovative simply because in nonprofit social enterprise terms, they are a bit superannuated. —Rick Cohen

Foundation stymied in tackling street crime
Jul 1, 2009; The Boston Globe | Something doesn’t read quite right in this Boston Globe article about an anti-crime ant-gang  initiative lodged largely in The Boston Foundation. Here’s the facts, at least at the Globe reported them: 1. In December, the Foundation announced the SafeStreet Boston initiative to tackle street/gang crime in 5 tough neighborhoods; 2. the goal was to place 13 new street workers in targeted neighorhoods by March 2009, plus provide groups with funding to offer services, GED programs, etc.; 3. there were several months of meetings with local groups working on plans and budgets, leading the groups to think that they would get some money from the fundraising of the foundation; 4. the foundation scaled a $26.5 million program down to $20.5 million but only ended up raising $8.8 million; 5. because of slow fundraising and some coordination problems with local agencies, the 13 new street workers weren’t deployed (through the longstanding Boston TenPoint Coalition) until last week (June); 6. after spending months in meetings, groups believed it was natural that they would get some program money, but the foundation says that that was never an explicit commitment by the foundation, and many of the groups in the meetings stopped hearing anything from the foundation in March; 7. the foundation has announced $500,000 in grants to community organizations for dance and athletic programs, though it’s not clear that those are explicitly tied to the SafeStreet program.  Here’s what doesn’t make sense: The Foundation should have known, from the experience of the Northwest Area Foundation’s collapsed anti-poverty initiative and others, that when you take nonprofits through months of planning meetings with dollar signs, they logically believe that some of that money will end up with them. It’s called “creeping commitment.” When foundations take nonprofits through extended foundation-directed planning and strategy sessions, the participants believe—not without reason—that there’s a commitment to them, with the foundation possessing the dollars being ready to give them some. And here’s the other point:  they raised $8.8 million with the end result of 13 street workers? There are some circumstances when foundations in their commitments to collaborations, big plans, scientific methods, “tightly focused interventions”, and so forth would do better simply by giving the groups on the ground—like the TenPoint Coalition, the money to do the work when the money would count. In this case, the portion of the money that evolved into the 13 street workers didn’t start until late June, when anti-crime planning for the summer would have logically started earlier. Moreover, one might think that $8.8 million might generate something more than funding for 13 street workers (probably not among the highest paid employees in the nonprofit sector) plus $500,000 in dance and athletics grants. And remember: when nonprofits go to the press to complain about a city’s top funder, you know that there was some really lousy communications involved. —Rick Cohen

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