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The Nonprofit QuarterlyPrecipitous Losses—ACLU and the $20 Million Donor
Dec 8, 2009; New York Times | The New York Times reported Tuesday that a longtime anonymous donor to the American Civil Liberties Union has withdrawn his annual gift of more than $20 million. This was announced at a recent executive committee meeting without revealing the donor’s name but the Times reported that an A.C.L.U. board member revealed under conditions of anonymity that the donor is David Gelbaum, hedge fund manager and notable investor in clean technology. Gelbaum cited “market conditions” for his decision to temporarily halt giving. Luckily, other donors have made pledges to help make up the gap but because that money is to be shared with affiliates, where Gelbaum’s gift reportedly wasn’t, the national organization will still take a multi-million dollar hit. This comes on top of cuts last year. Today Gelbaum released a statement reaffirming his support for the organization but confirming that he “will not be able to make donations of this size starting in 2010 and continuing indefinitely.” In his statement Gelbaum wrote “the shift in my financial circumstances is the cause of the reduction in giving, and not any disapproval or dissatisfaction with the programs.” Other nonprofits significantly affected by Gelbaum’s announcement are the environmental group the Sierra Club Foundation and the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, a charity that provides services for American military personnel and their families.—Aaron Lester

The Nonprofit QuarterlyL3C’s in Philly
Dec 4; Environmental Leader | The variety of social enterprises getting formal recognition and government incentives has expanded in Philadelphia. In other places, states have accredited “low profit limited liability corporations” (L3Cs) which would enable them to, in theory, attract program-related investments from private corporations—but no specific government subsidies. However, Philadelphia has just come up with a $4,000 pilot tax incentive for up to 25 “B corporations.” According to B Lab, B corporations are “a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” They have to “meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards” and “institutionalize stakeholder interests.” The Philadelphia program may be replicated by Yonkers, NY and Media, PA. B Lab has certified, using its own criteria, 220 B Corporations in 54 industries with $1.1 billion in revenues. That’s pretty small stuff in the grand scheme of things. So what will Philadelphia’s $4,000 tax break give B Corporations and what will they deliver in response? This is only a $100,000 program for what the article calls entities focused on “the so-called triple bottom line.” What will be piloted for 100 grand? We’ll keep watching here at NPQ.—Rick Cohen

The Nonprofit QuarterlyLA Gang Tours Are Just Around the Corner
Dec 5, 2009; NBC Los Angeles | For all of the talk about entrepreneurial and innovative nonprofits, we hope people notice the nonprofit in Los Angeles that is going to be running tours, sort of like the famous tours of the homes of Hollywood types, but visiting a different social circle—Los Angeles gangs. The tours will visit the haunts of the Crips, the Bloods, and others. A former member of the Florencia 13 gang called this nonprofit strategy an example of “community empowerment.” Profits from the $65 a head tour will go back to the community to help create “franchised” tours in other neighborhoods and to be used as loans to “inner city entrepreneurs.” Whether or not one is a fan of Los Angeles street gangs, there is no question that the gangs’ capitalizing on their fame as a revenue-generating mechanism for community improvements represents an intriguing example of entrepreneurial activity.—Rick Cohen

The Nonprofit QuarterlyU.S. Agrees to $3 Billion Deal in Indian Suit
Dec 8, 2009; New York Times
| We couldn’t be more pleased to see one of the amazing nonprofit leaders we’ve written about succeed through perseverance and principle. The remarkable Eloise Cobell has battled three presidential administrations fighting to pay back Indian landowners—what amounted to more than $3 billion—that they were swindled out of as royalties for oil, gas, and other leases that were held in trust for Indian landowners by Interior. Many times, Republican and Democratic administrations tried to wheedle out of restoring these funds to Indian tribes and landowners, and many faulted Eloise for hanging in when much lower level settlements might have been reached. We wrote about the Cobell litigation several times, including the hiring of a Cobell opponent at the National Museum of the American Indian and, for the Daily Yonder, the bypassing of the NMAI advisory committee on which Cobell served, and reminding foundations that this is the kind of advocacy they might want to support if they were ever to increase rural grantmaking. At least twice, a courageous federal district court judge, Royce Hansen (a Republican appointee), held Interior secretaries in well deserved contempt, until finally the Bush Administration had him removed from the case as biased against the government (we thought he was simply fed up with the pathetic stonewalling and obfuscating of successive secretaries of the Interior Department). Although some in the Obama Administration might have balked at the tab for the settlement, President Obama, when he was Senator Obama, joined by Republican Senator Charles Grassley, was an ardent supporter of making the tribes whole on the land trust issue. It is exciting to see that for Barack Obama, supporting Cobell’s trust fund litigation was not merely campaign rhetoric, but a commitment he would fulfill upon entering the White House. The government settlement did not include an apology for the 122 years of intentional Interior mismanagement of the trust resources and the denial of benefits to the tribes and landowners. As Eloise Cobell herself put it, an apology “would have been nice . . . but actions are more important to me than apologies.” If you want to find an example of indomitable nonprofit advocacy, look to Eloise Cobell of Montana’s Blackfeet Tribe. Congratulations, Eloise!.—Rick Cohen



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