A donor’s reputation may matter even more than his donation, especially if his name is Kenneth Lay. Despite the enormity of Mr. Lay’s philanthropic efforts, many of his recipient organizations have decided his money is not worth the accompanying baggage.
In Aspen, Colorado, where Mr. Lay died of a heart attack, the Aspen Music Festival has been receiving public pressure to disassociate itself from its former benefactor. Beside its garden court lies a small sign of recognition of the Lay contribution that threatens to become an albatross.
Lay’s alma mater, the University of Missouri, finds itself in a similar conundrum. The Kenneth L. Lay Chair in Economics, endowed by more than $1 million in Enron stock sold before the company’s demise, remains vacant. The department is still deliberating how to resolve the predicament.
His fraud convictions notwithstanding, Lay’s philanthropy also speaks for itself. Tax records from 2001 show over $6.1 million in charitable contributions from the Linda and Ken Lay Family Foundation. “I know the Lay story more than most in the Aspen area,” Dr. Phyllis Bronson told the Deseret Morning News, “and I am very close to the family so of course I would like to see Ken’s name redeemed. But now is probably not the time.”
Funding Research for New Philanthropic Practices
How will social and technological changes affect modern philanthropy? The David and Lucile Packard Foundation hopes to answer this question through a new grantmaking program administered by the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Sector Research Fund (NSRF): “An Evolving Field: Research on New Philanthropic Practices and the Changing Environment for Philanthropy.”
Greater involvement of donors in their philanthropy, an increase in the number of high net-worth individuals, and powerful and accessible communications technologies that accelerate information-sharing and collaboration are all developments that inspired the Packard Foundation to fund this program, the stated goal of which is “to develop new knowledge that informs efforts to create more strategic philanthropy in response to social and technological changes.”
Other motivations for enhancing philanthropic strategies include significant demographic shifts, such as an aging baby boom generation and increase in immigrants, which are creating fiscal demands that the U.S. government cannot adequately meet. “The philanthropic world is under greater pressure to address social needs, and it is responding with new giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds and philanthropic mutual funds,” according to Alan Abramson, director of the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program, of which NSRF is a subprogram. “New approaches and methods of giving are emerging. What impact will all these factors have on the philanthropic field and, ultimately, on philanthropy’s beneficiaries? This is what we need to explore.”
NSRF is currently reviewing applications for proposed research projects.
MacArthur Foundation Announces First Awards for Effective Nonprofits
The John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation recently announced its first annual MacArthur Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions. Nine nonprofits from five countries received up to $500,000 each for being “highly creative and effective organizations that have demonstrated significant impact in their fields.”
To qualify for the award, these nonprofits also had to have budgets of less than $2.5 million a year, have reached a critical or strategic point in their development, show strong leadership and stable financial management, and have previously received MacArthur support.
Recipients included the Chicago Rehab Network, which helps preserve affordable housing; the CLEEN Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria, which holds police in a dictatorship-turned-democracy accountable for misconduct; Fundar in Mexico City, which tracks public spending related to human rights and reproductive health; and the Independent Council of Legal Expertise in Moscow, Russia, which is dedicated to promoting democratic reform of the Russian legal system.
Other recipients are Knowledge Ecology International, which monitors and analyzes intellectual property policy developments around the world; North Lawndale Employment Network in Chicago, which finds permanent jobs for about 900 people each year, including many ex-convicts; Peruvian Society for Environmental Law in Lima, Peru, which has helped develop a private conservation program that promotes concepts such as conservation easements and ecosystem service payments; RealBenefits in Boston, which helps community-based health organizations reliably screen patients to determine their eligibility for public assistance programs, reducing administrative and collection costs; and the Society for Education, Action, and Research in Community Health (SEARCH) in Maharashtra, India, which offers public health programs serving 86 villages with a total population of 100,000.