July 13, 2014

The Cohen Report

The Philanthropic Problem with Hillary Clinton’s Huge Speaking Fees

ClintonsThe lucrative six-figure speaking fees being paid to Hillary Clinton for speeches at universities have attracted much criticism—too high, too much money being paid to a presidential candidate. Our concern is different: The speaking fees being paid to Clinton (which she says she turns over to the Clinton Foundation) constitute the “repurposing” of donations and tax payments to colleges and universities for the Clinton family’s own philanthropic agenda and might in some cases be purchases of recognition and face time with an expectation of future favors should Hillary Rodham Clinton become the second President Clinton.

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Searching for Juneteenth: The State of Black Museums — Part II

AAThis is the second of a two-part series on how African-American museums in the U.S. are faring amidst the competition for foundation, charitable, and governmental resources. Part I was an overview of the issues and challenges facing black museums; this piece examines the sources of funding and the strategies that some museums are using to survive and thrive.

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When PR Ensures the Buck Never Stops

MCIt is very difficult to find examples of people in responsibility actually taking responsibility for the crises and failures of the organizations they lead. In the wake of the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Mary Barra’s recent announcement of the results of an internal probe of automobile recall problems at General Motors, it may be appropriate to ask where the buck stops in those large entities—and in our own.

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Eight Sobering Thoughts for Social Impact Bond Supporters

8Among some promoters of social impact bonds, one might find a tendency toward irrational exuberance. They’ll slip into language that suggests the market discipline purportedly inserted into social programming by private capital is much more broadly applicable to a range of social problems than experience so far bears out. We have some enthusiasm-tempering considerations that SIB advocates and critics might reflect upon.

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The State of Black Museums—Part I

WrightIn the midst of debates over Detroit’s future coming out of an unprecedented big city bankruptcy, the fate of cultural institutions rose to the forefront, largely focused on the future of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Would foundations, would the community rally around an equally important Detroit cultural institution, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History? The future for the Wright Museum reminded us that there are numerous African-American museums throughout the nation facing challenges but playing important roles in their communities and for arts and culture nationally. This is the first of a two-part review of the conditions, challenges, and prospects of African-American museums.

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Social Responsibility or Marketing Ploy? The Branding of L3Cs

ElephantWhat exactly are L3Cs, how are they currently operating, and what potential problems do they pose for the nonprofit sector?

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How Not to Run a Department: Obama, Shinseki, and the VA Hospital Scandal

VAYesterday’s public statements from President Obama, his first since the news broke about the burgeoning scandal of fraudulent waiting lists and other practices by VA personnel to “game the system” at VA hospitals, were exceptionally important. Not only is the White House not addressing this problem expeditiously, its sluggish reaction to this scandal jeopardizes support for the Department of Veterans Affairs and for other critical government functions, notably the Affordable Care Act.  

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5 Questions about Divestment Strategies as Fossil Fuels Take Center Stage

FFAs universities and foundations all over the country are faced with challenges to their fossil fuel investments, it’s worth standing back to think about what such campaigns actually accomplish when they work.

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The Climate Change Conundrum

ShipThe National Climate Assessment report released by the White House earlier this week merits action by more than environmental groups. Climate change is so big and so hard to wrap one’s mind around that it deters groups from acting, but we have some ideas about what all nonprofits can do.

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Some Unanswered Questions About Benefit Corporations, L3Cs, and Social Enterprise More Generally

SocentAs the print version of the Nonprofit Quarterly prepares its upcoming issue on hybrid organizations, this edition of the Cohen Report looks at some questions raised by a few of the newer organizational forms of social enterprise.

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Half a Century after the Civil Rights Act, Four Challenges for Nonprofits and Foundations Today

Civil Rights ActFifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there is a large unfinished agenda of civil rights and racial equity needing attention and action. In this issue of the Cohen Report, we pose four items—among a much longer list—that should be on the plates of all nonprofits and foundations.

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Six Changes for Nonprofits as Results of the Affordable Care Act

ACAThis week, the Affordable Care Act reached its first major benchmark for full implementation. Today’s Cohen Report takes stock of what the ACA has done to reshape some of the contours and functions of nonprofits beyond those that, like clinics and hospitals, are directly involved in the delivery of healthcare services. The ACA-generated changes for nonprofits will only continue and expand.

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3 Objections to Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation

HelmetThere is no question that Daniel Snyder has chosen to create a new entity rather than working through existing foundations or Native American grantmakers for a very clear purpose: to attach the name of his Washington, D.C., NFL franchise to philanthropic support for Native Americans.

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Rectifying the Historic and Continuing Mistake of Racism in US Society

Brown vs Board of Education - Implementation DecreePresident Obama’s awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 veterans, rectifying an historic injustice. All had been qualified for the Medal, but were denied because they happened to be black, Latino, or Jewish. The list of racial inequities remaining to be corrected is long and difficult, due to the complexity of confronting overt and covert racism in American society.

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The Take on “My Brother’s Keeper”

ObamaWhen President Obama gathered a diverse crowd of people to witness his announcement of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, he even corralled Rev. Al Sharpton and Bill O’Reilly to participate—together—as though they both supported the president’s plans for helping black men and black boys. In the weeks since the announcement, My Brother’s Keeper has become something of a Rorschach test; everyone sees parts of they like. But the new initiative has its share of critics as well.

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Thoughts on Philanthropy Week in Washington

PWWe hope that the Philanthropy Week lobbying won’t lead to a dumbed down vision of the roles and potentials of foundations in American society. Foundations have important roles to play as counterweights to government and to corporations and as instruments for addressing our society’s social and economic inequities. These roles should be celebrated and underscored, not hidden behind a strategy of selling simplistic “good news” stories. 

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Nonprofit and Public Consumer Advocates

ConsumerThe contours of nonprofit advocacy have been changing in recent years. This issue of the Cohen Report talks about three current issues in consumer advocacy—consumer advocates helping make government programs work, helping create new and crucially important regulatory and oversight functions, and the problem of phony consumer advocates created and funded by corporate interests.

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Warehouses or Accelerators? Charitable Gift Funds Prove Strong Partners to Donors

DAFsSchwab Charitable, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, and several others linked to financial services firms have developed a charitable service that has done more than increase the ease of the process of money flowing from donors’ pockets to operating charities. They have also fundamentally changed investors’ mindsets and their conceptual approaches to charitable giving.

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Obama’s Voluntary Action 2014 State of the Union Address

SOTUPresident Obama’s State of the Union address tackled income inequality as pundits predicted. For nonprofits, however, the president’s policy prescriptions to shrink the nation’s income gaps and to increase social mobility were strong on calls for voluntary action and a little thin on new federal program initiatives.

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Republican Gubernatorial Campaigns Play the Charter School Card

ShapesThe new conservative Republican gubernatorial campaign strategy: Show up at charter schools, make a show, hint that charters are the solution to public school problems, and sidestep other public school issues. Like others, Texas AG Greg Abbott, who’s currently campaigning to succeed Rick Perry in Austin, is following this playbook to the hilt.

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Coming Full Circle: The War on Poverty’s Invaluable Contribution to Today’s Nonprofit Sector

125On the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s proclamation of a national War on Poverty, Nonprofit Quarterly listens to nonprofit leaders who grew up benefitting from anti-poverty programs and cut their professional teeth in War on Poverty initiatives. The War has barely been fought, but among its products is a cadre of nonprofit activists and a robust civil society that is committed to social change.

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The Cohen Report in 2013: An Extraordinary Year for News

2013As NPQ looks back, it wonders at the sheer mass of important policy decisions affecting your work that was taken up over the course of 2013. Through it all, NPQ’s national correspondent, Rick Cohen, was examining the documents, researching the actors, and bringing his analytical eye to the trajectory of the discussion and potential implications. Where else can you get this kind of analysis meant specifically for the nonprofit and philanthropic sector?

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Federal OMB Rules on Grants and Contracts Get A-to-Z Overhaul

OMBIf you’re a nonprofit with federal grants or contracts, you know the importance of the OMB Circulars that govern what the feds expect from your organization regarding indirect costs, direct costs, and audits. OMB is announcing a thorough overhaul of its guidance for nonprofit grantees and contractors, a new regime of federal guidance that replaces OMB Circulars A-87, 110, 133, and so many others.

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New Federal Budget Deal Announced by Ryan and Murray

PlantsCongressional negotiators announced a framework for a new 2014 and 2015 budget deal with important implications for nonprofits. We have some of the emerging details here.

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Government Contracting and Payment Practices: Lingering Problems for Nonprofits

UIThe Urban Institute and the National Council of Nonprofits have documented the continuing grant and contract problems faced by nonprofits in dealing with local, state, and federal governments. Problems of late payments, inadequate indirect and administrative costs, and less than full compensation for the cost of service delivery still plague nonprofits across the nation, but the Council of Nonprofits has ideas about how to turn the tide and fix this persistent problem.

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Cutting to the (JPMorgan) Chase Mortgage Settlement

JPDue to JPMorgan Chase’s record of intentional sales of “toxic” mortgage-backed securities, the biggest bank in the U.S. (by assets) got hit with the largest single-corporation fine in history. Want to know what’s in the $13 billion settlement deal for nonprofits? Get the do’s and don’ts here.

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What Works in a Post-Hero Economic Strategy

PatternWhat’s in the “secret sauce” of the Ohio-based Fund for Our Economic Future that makes it a functional foundation collaborative?

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Six Problems: Third in a Series on the WaPo Nonprofit “Asset Diversion” Database

6The Washington Post’s “Asset Diversions” database needs to be understood for what it is, a grouping of problems that resulted in loss. The causes of those problems are varied, and the responses should be as well. In this last installment in his series, Rick Cohen sorts the problems and potential responses into six areas.

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The WaPo Diversions Story, Part II: Preying on Nonprofits

fraudThe Washington Post’s investigative report on nonprofits citing diversions of assets has deservedly received much attention. The challenge is to understand what the Post’s database on nonprofit diversions actually reveals. We think there’s a scandal lurking here—about the regulation, oversight, and control of investment banks and advisors.

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Washington Post Diversions Piece: What it Really Means

TransSometimes organizations perpetrate fraud, sometimes they are victims.  In the Washington Post’s investigative report on “diversions” of nonprofit assets, the nonprofits involve look more like victims of criminals than criminal victimizers.

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