Foundations Remain Under Fire in Election
We’re nearly a week from Election Day and the presidential candidates’ foundations -- two very different nonprofit organizations, one being a public charity and the other being a private foundation-- continue to garner scathing attention on the campaign trail. Scrutiny intensified last week with a new television ad criticizing the Clinton Foundation.
Donald Trump’s campaign is airing the new ad, “Corruption” in key battleground states, accusing Hillary Clinton of engaging in pay-to-play through the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of state and claiming “staggering amounts of cash poured into the Clinton Foundation from criminals.”
The Trump Foundation has also made headlines this month as New York’s attorney general ordered the foundation to stop fundraising in the state because it was not properly registered to do so. Trump has also been accused of "repeated use of foundation money to make donations that simultaneously helped him solve a personal or business problem." Trump's funding for his private foundation has been under scrutiny, it's been largely funded by others since 2008, which is unusual for a family foundation.
This is not a partisan matter, it’s a matter of credibility for the social sector. It’s potentially quite damaging, there has never been a U.S. presidential race with such an intense focus on the candidates’ philanthropy.
Nonprofit Quarterly shared an article about serious concerns for philanthropy, noting, “As advocates for the nonprofit sector and civil society, we are concerned that these two nonprofits are being served up to the American public as examples of how wealthy and influential people practice philanthropy.”
Will the political rhetoric harm credibility? We first explored this political spotlight on foundations six weeks ago in an edition of the Weekly Download, since then the headlines have grown, the barbs have continued and the public attention has increased.
A Huffington Post guest blogger and professor from Columbia University wrote the election news cycle is "creating a cloud of suspicion" around the two high-profile foundations and "the push for progress by America's foundations is too important to be derailed by seasonal headlines." The article highlights how the public should turn its attention to what's happening in philanthropy including those "partnering for leverage, ensuring integrity of operational processes, and investing in analytics-based approaches."
What can you do?
Check out our top takeaways for foundations including how to tell your story and best practices for transparency.
Take a look at the compliance checklist for private foundations provided by the Council on Foundations.
Urban farming is transforming vacant city lots and helping families have better access to fresh, healthy food. Planting produce and getting rid of blight in our cities is gaining traction, especially in metro Detroit where urban farmers harvest about 400,000 pounds of fresh produce in the area every year.
The surge in urban farms has led Senator Debbie Stabenow to introduce a bill that would extend funding and resources to support urban farmers and create an urban agriculture office at the USDA.
A new sustainability report highlights urban farming efforts in both Detroit and Flint, noting their active plans for agriculture on vacant land.
In Detroit, we are seeing several innovative approaches to growing including a collaborative project involving nonprofit Resurge Detroit, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Motor City Blight Busters. The project, Liberty Harvest, will transform a shipping container into a solar powered greenhouse that will serve as an agriculture training area for veterans.
"Urban agriculture in Detroit is growing exponentially, and what we want to be able to do is grow those skills in the city," Jibran Ahmed, executive director of Resurge Detroit said.
Other Detroit urban farming initiatives include:
- The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI), a nonprofit focused in Detroit’s North End, has an urban farm that’s harvested more than 50,000 pounds of produce since 2011, supplying families through a pay-what-you-can model.
- Fresh Corner Café, a mission-driven organization supports other local, healthy food startups including the creation of Detroit’s first-ever farm to table potato chip, grown from vacant lots inside of Detroit’s Hope District, the product led to the creation of employment opportunities.
- Artesian Farms grows and packages food in a vertical farm housed in a formerly blighted warehouse in Detroit’s Brightmoor Neighborhood. Artesian Farms has received support through a social impact investment by the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.
- Earthworks Urban Farm is a program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, offering hands on learning for youth as well as internships every year.
A recent study from the U.S. Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that urban farming can help bridge gaps in neighborhoods, promote civic engagement, and may be therapeutic for those who participate. However, there are challenges as sometimes the food grown in urban areas isn’t easily accessible to those who need it most, and bring into question whether the increased property values (because of beautification) may force out lower-income residents.
Those involved in urban farming or the “greening” of a city, such as Detroit, say there are many benefits, calling it a “seismic shift in thinking about how we redevelop a city.”
Learn more by connecting with the Greening of Detroit’s Urban Agriculture Department.
Don’t Forget Flint
It’s been more than a year since the water crisis became public and families in Flint are still drinking bottled or filtered water, waiting for their pipes to be replaced. It will take a lot of time and hundreds of millions of dollars to replace the city’s infrastructure, ensuring pipes going to homes are lead-free.
What happened in Flint may serve as a cautionary tale, especially considering a new report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), showing other cities could face similar problems.
GAO said 99 midsize and large cities in the country are dealing with higher poverty rates and declining populations but still have major water and infrastructure needs that must be paid for. Detroit is listed in the study, researchers say it has lost a substantial amount of its population and corresponding revenues from utilities. The study reveals that without infrastructure improvements many cities around the country may be at risk of exposure to lead and other contaminations at some point.
The EPA estimates water and sewer utilities will need to spend $655 billion nationally over the next 20 years to maintain or upgrade infrastructure.
As for Flint, a lot of questions remain, the city was recently featured on America, Divided, a docu-series, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and others, that explores inequities in our country.
Actress Rosario Dawson takes viewers inside the water crisis, talking to a mother who was baffled by her health problems, assured by many it was a virus, to a professor from Michigan State University, Josh Sapotichne, who discussed what he says were governmental failures that led to the water crisis. Sapotichne shared some of his research of the “disinvestment in Michigan cities” at CMF’s Annual Conference in September.
The Ford Foundation offers a weekly blog recap of the series, noting that in Flint an infrastructure overhaul requires a lot of money and while much of it will come from government, “philanthropy also has an important role to play in investing in the future of Flint and its citizens.”
A number of CMF members have committed millions, working collaboratively in various areas to help the families of Flint move forward, many are noted in a recent article detailing how philanthropy is helping the city recover.
Donations continue to be made to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint’s child health and development fund, so far it has received more than $9.2 million in gifts.
America, Divided airs on Fridays at 9 p.m. on EPIX.
Read the full report by GAO.
Dresner Foundation awards grant to create asthma clinic on wheels for Detroit youth
Excerpted from a press release, read the full release here.
The Dresner Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant to the Henry Ford Health System School-Based and Community Health Program to increase access to asthma treatment for Detroit’s youth. The grant will be used to transition one of Henry Ford’s pediatric mobile clinics into a Breathmobile, delivering asthma treatment to youth in Detroit’s schools and community centers.
“In addition to improving their overall health, increasing access to asthma treatment and prevention is critical to the long-term educational success of Detroit youth,” Virginia Romano, managing director of programs at the Dresner Foundation said.
A similar Breathmobile in California led to a 68 percent reduction in emergency room visits and a 92 percent drop in missed school days.
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