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Thank You Michael Jackson for your life long charity work
Jun 25, 2009; The Examiner| Those of us who actually remember Michael Jackson as the kid from Gary, Indiana with the phenomenal voice and talent—as opposed to an oddity that Gen X’ers and Y’ers read about in the tabloids—also remember that like many celebrities, Jackson had some money lodged in charities of his own design and control. And like all too many celebrity foundations and charities, they were mired in some controversy. This piece from the Examiner lists many of the charities that Jackson gave to over the years. But he did have some trouble with his own foundation—the Heal the World Foundation. With the support of PepsiCo (obvious) and Deepak Chopra, Jackson created his foundation in the early 1990s, but it was suspended in 2002 after having failed to provide annual reports as required by public law and apparently ceasing grant distributions some years earlier.  Intended to raise and give out $100 million, the foundation distributed about $4 million before its collapse, when it ended with assets of $3,542—and Jackson himself as chairman and the only director. The UK Charity Commission shut down the British operations of Heal the World in 1998 as having  been “disfigured” by Jackson’s actions and behavior (in addition to the fact that as of 1997, it hadn’t given a grant in the UK in three years).  His Neverland Zoo Foundation (for endangered animals) was terminated in 1998, and his Heal L.A. charity, created to help kids in Los Angeles after the South Central riots, was shut down in 2001. His New York variation of the LA charity, Heal the Kids, was run by Schmuley Boteach, the controversial pop-rabbi author of “Kosher Sex,” but he was quoted as saying that Jackson’s advisors convinced him to disassociate himself from Kids because it was too “pedestrian” for his image. His plan to raise money from a song on 9/11 failed when it was revealed that he had given the production rights to a gay-porn producer.  Lots of sad stories around Jackson, and unfortunately including charity and philanthropy. —Rick Cohen

U.S. Capitol is too white, say critics
Jun 25, 2009; The Hill | Nonprofits and foundations concerned with the racial imbalances in the charitable sector need only to look at Congress—and K Street lobbyists—to realize that African-Americans and Latinos are grossly underrepresented in Washington DC’s corridors of powers as well.  In the Senate, only Dianne Feinstein has an African-American chief of staff, only Debbie Stabenow a Latino chief of staff; in the House, the only white members with African-American chiefs of staff are Capuano (MA), Wasserman-Schulz (FL), Sutton (OH), Turner (OH), and Miller (NC).  Some people are talking about a “Rooney rule,” the National Football League’s practice of requiring teams to at least interview one minority candidate before they hire a coach.  Do foundations (which are a bit short on minority board members and minority CEOs) need a Rooney rule too?  —Rick Cohen

Call to give philanthropists tax breaks when they donate to poor areas
Jun 24, 2009; Third Sector Online | The British are addressing the question that the U.S. is sidestepping for the moment:  should there be special incentives for charitable giving that benefits the poor and disadvantaged?  It would never happen here among U.S. community foundations under the aegis of the Council on Foundations, be assured, but the UK’s Community Foundation Network has issued a manifesto suggesting consideration of “the creation of ‘special giving zones’, modeled on social exclusion zones, that would encourage investment in services to disadvantaged communities. Any individual or company giving to charities that work in these zones would get favourable tax treatment.”  Other recommendations of the full report include calling on government to create a £30 million “Philanthropy Infrastructure Investment Fund” for seed capital investments in IT projects, “reducing the many bureaucratic obligations that are placed on charities and voluntary groups,” investing in payroll giving, providing matching fund challenges (perhaps comparable to the state charitable giving incentives for donations to CFs in places like Michigan), and considering “preferential tax breaks to foundations “that have a form of public ownership and promote engagement with beneficiaries.”  The few U.S. readers who have seen this are shuddering that the manifesto called for the charitable giving incentives for donations to poor areas as opposed to simply exploring them, but a similar call for consideration has been made by U.S. Congressman Xavier Becerra.  The CFN’s manifesto is worth reading as a primer for the debate that the U.S. charitable sector has to eventually have. Rick Cohen

Congressman Urges Charities to Stomp Out Waste and Fraud
Jun 23, 2009; Chronicle of Philanthropy | Congressman Xavier Becerra has been a busy guy.  He led a rally in Capitol Hill the other day on health care reform and attended a White House program on immigration reform.  But the nonprofit sector is roiled by his comments, otherwise unnoticed by the press, about “a pressing need ‘to look at the issues of waste, abuse, and corruption in the nonprofit world.’” The Chronicle’s webpage generated lots of show-us-your-evidence challenges to the Congressman, but the clip from the Chronicle is really no more than what Becerra has long said:  “When I find that most of the money in the nonprofit world doesn’t even end up helping the Latino, the African-American, the Asian-American families in my district who are trying to make their way up, but ends up mostly in the backyard of the folks who gave the money — and very few folks in my district can give a lot of money — then I wonder if we are getting the most out of those dollars by allowing tax-preferred treatment in the nonprofit world.”  As you might remember, he actually said that to NPQ’s Cohen Report in early 2008.  Commentators on the Chronicle website immediately fretted about his challenge to nonprofit CEOs earning more than the president, ignoring what Becerra’s really asking:  who’s benefitting from charitable donations (tax deductible ones) and who should be benefiting? Rick Cohen

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