January 27, 2020

Monday, January 27, 2020

Groups Protest the Sale of .ORG Domain

On Friday, a crowd gathered outside the Los Angeles office of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the governing body which oversees .ORG domain rights, to protest the sale of the .ORG domain to a private equity firm.

As CMF reported in December, the Internet Society reached an agreement with Ethos Capital, under which Ethos Capital would acquire Public Interest Registry (PIR), the company that owns the .ORG domain.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of this year. However, the sale has raised concerns among the nonprofit sector when it comes to the possibility of domain price increases and the threat of censorship.

The pricing concern largely stems from an action earlier in the year, when ICANN removed a cost-hike cap at 10 percent for annual increases on .ORG domains.

The sale poses a potential financial burden to small nonprofits and our sector risks losing control of its .ORG brand value.

Now, opposition to the sale is growing with more than 21,000 signatures and nearly 650 organizations signing on to the online petition at SaveDotOrg.

Most recently, the National Association of State Charities Officials (NASCO), which is comprised of state charities officials, including state attorney general offices, secretary of state offices and other state offices charged with preventing the misuse of charitable assets, sent a letter to ICANN expressing concern, stating in part:

“As a charitable nonprofit, PIR has been a regulated entity subject to federal and state oversight of its charitable assets, governance and tax-exempt status. This conversion would remove these important layers of transparency and accountability. Further, in maintaining the '.org' registry, PIR has historically been obligated to act in furtherance of its charitable mission (i.e., serving the public interest online through operating and managing the '.org' domain). The '.org' registry provides an important public benefit to charitable organizations throughout the world.”

In addition to NASCO, several lawmakers are speaking out against the sale. A contingency of six U.S. senators sent a letter urging ICANN to block the sale.

“The Ethos Capital takeover of the .ORG domain fails the public interest test in numerous ways: it threatens the quality and reliability of .ORG websites, and could severely limit access to these domains via price increases and 'arbitrary censorship,'” wrote the lawmakers. “And the current commitments and agreements made by Ethos Capital fail to mitigate these risks.”

In December, ICANN shared that it has requested additional information from PIR about the transaction. In a message shared on its website, the group states, “ICANN will thoroughly evaluate the responses and then ICANN has 30 additional days to provide or withhold its consent to the request.”

Now ICANN is providing a 30-day extension to PIR with a new deadline of February 17.

CMF’s Public Policy Committee has approved a resolution opposing the sale, stating in part: “Council of Michigan Foundations opposes the sale of the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to Ethos Capital and that the ICANN maintain the ownership of the .ORG domain within the nonprofit sector to ensure proceeds support nonprofits and so the .ORG domain is able to maintain the brand and its integrity.”

Want more?

Read our previous story: Nonprofits React to the Purchase of the .ORG Domain.






State Announces New Food and Agriculture Housing Task Force

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has created a new task force to take a closer look at workforce housing needs around the state.

The new Food and Agriculture Housing Task Force will be led by MDARD and includes other departments and agencies that deal with economic development, housing and rural development.

The new task force comes as the state says we are seeing an increased demand for hired workers in food and agriculture communities and “housing has become a major issue.”

According to the state’s news release there’s been an increase in hired workers in agriculture nationally as well. The U.S. Department of Labor’s H2A program saw a 406% increase in applications from 2005 to 2018.

In Michigan, MDARD wants to ensure one of our state’s largest industries is appropriately poised for growth.

“The state’s $104.7 billion a year food and agriculture sector is ripe for growth. We’ve consistently heard that a lack of hired labor is a significant impediment for those businesses. This is the first step for MDARD to help address the lack of housing,” Gary McDowell, director of MDARD said. “The task force will be working to address the need for food and agriculture housing while balancing the individual needs of communities, which may have its own challenges and require a more regional solution-driven approach.”

First, the state is asking for public feedback.

You can weigh in on housing needs and this work via an online survey. MDARD says the survey will “help identify the needs of food and agriculture businesses, the potential challenges within local communities and how the MDARD can be a catalyst for identifying regional solutions.”

The department is also going on the road to seek feedback and information to help shape this work moving forward. In February and March, MDARD will be hosting regional meetings around the state to gather insights from community leaders, economic development representatives and those in the food and agriculture business.

While this work on the state level may be laser focused on agriculture workforce housing, more broadly workforce housing is an issue CMF members are working on around the state.

As CMF has reported, Frey Foundation and Rotary Charities of Traverse City are part of the Northwest Michigan Rural Housing Partnership (NMRHP) to address the workforce housing shortage in Northwest Michigan. 

The Grand Haven Area Community Foundation continues to partner with individuals and organizations to raise awareness of the shortage of workforce housing and invest in solutions.  

Pennies from Heaven Foundation has committed Program Related Investments (PRIs) to a development and grants funds to a CDFI to close gaps on local housing developments adding safe and affordable workforce housing to the community.

"What we have learned is that solving the housing crisis is complicated, and can not be down alone," Monica Schuyler, executive director, Pennies from Heaven Foundation said. "The best solutions stem from great partnerships and multiple entities working together to address the need. We, as a foundation, are committed to helping foster those partnerships."

Want more?

Connect with CMF’s Rural Philanthropy Affinity Group.

Provide input to MDARD via this online survey.

RSVP to attend one of the town halls.






Census 2020: New On-the-Ground Efforts to Ensure a Complete Count

In Flint and Genesee County 34 nonprofits have been tapped to do on-the-ground outreach in the area to encourage participation from historically undercounted communities in Census 2020.

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF) which is one of 11 CMF member community foundations serving or partnering as a regional hub through the Nonprofits Complete Count Campaign (NPCCC), announced more than $300,000 in grants to nonprofits to promote an accurate census.

“The community foundation is pleased to support local nonprofits that are key to get out the count efforts, particularly in hard-to-count populations,” Sue Peters, vice president of community impact, CFGF said in a news release. “Those with the most to lose from an undercount are the hardest to count, including people of color, immigrants, young children, and those traditionally served by nonprofits.”

The nonprofits will use the funding in a wide spectrum of “get out the count” activities and supports including hosting community events, providing training and computer access.

Highlights of CFGF’s grantee announcement include:

  • Latinx Technology & Community Center of Greater Flint will address mistrust to support a complete count for the census by serving as a hub for technology access.

  • Valley Area Agency on Aging will conduct a minimum of 30 outreach events targeting seniors to complete the census, including outreach to 1,000 seniors in their homes.

  • Flint Innovative Solutions will share Census 2020 information throughout Smartphone Technology Literacy training sessions.

Other regional census hubs including the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan have also made major announcements recently, sharing how they are deploying mini grants in the communities they serve to encourage a complete census count.

In the U.P., "Vote and Be Counted: Local Elections and the Census," a new exhibit, opened last week at the Marquette Regional History Center focusing on the importance and history of the census. The exhibit is supported through a grant awarded by the regional census hub in the U.P. which is a partnership between the Community Foundation for Marquette County (CFMC) and Community Foundation for the Upper Peninsula (CFUP).

Census Day is April 1. Invitations to fill out the census are scheduled to be sent in waves starting in March, with every household having the option to self-respond online, via the phone or a paper questionnaire. Households will have until July to complete the census.

In an effort to encourage participation and combat misinformation about the census, the federal government is asking anyone who sees false information being spread about the census to contact them via email.

Want more?

Connect with the Michigan Nonprofits Complete Count Campaign.

Access NPCCC campaign materials, including graphics for social media, videos and audio files.

Check out the state’s Be Counted materials and information.







Three Films Supported by Ford Foundation Nab Oscar Nominations

Content excerpted and adapted by a Ford Foundation blog. Read the full blog.

Three films, supported by the Ford Foundation, are in the running for best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards.

The films are supported through the foundation’s work in one of its focus areas, Creativity and Free Expression. The three films include:

  • American Factory

  • Free Sama

  • Edge of Democracy

“As part of our work in Creativity and Free Expression, we support artists and films that shed light on issues around the world and amplify the perspectives of people too often left out of the global conversation,” Chi-hui Yang, senior program officer, JustFilms, Creativity and Free Expression wrote in a foundation blog. “We’re excited to see these documentaries—supported by the JustFilms and journalism teams and tackling important subjects in Brazil, America, China and Syria—capture the attention of the film industry and audiences, far and wide.”

The foundation shares that its work in Creativity and Free Expression “explores how cultural narratives affect and shape our reality, and how the arts, journalism, and film can contribute to fairer and more just societies.”

American Factory and Edge of Democracy are currently available to stream on Netflix. Free Sama is available at PBS.org.

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