The Cisco ‘Fellows’
“Cisco’s Community Fellowship program was a blueprint for philanthropy in down times,” writes the San Jose Mercury News. “It offered employees facing layoffs the chance to work at nonprofits for a third of their pay—and the hope of returning to the company one day.” Many of the fellows went to nonprofits Cisco had already worked with to develop Internet technology on-site, while others went to work for nonprofits with no Cisco ties. The Cisco-turned-nonprofit employees had a great impact. Their projects included helping Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County in California create an information system that tracks the group’s 30,000 clients, and giving Second Harvest Food Bank a total tech makeover that “can alert Second Harvest to sudden changes in demand and other trends.” According to the News, “the fellowship program has ended, but Cisco will allow high-potential employees” to work at nonprofits as a form of leadership training. Of the 81 original fellows, 34 are returning to Cisco, nine have signed on with nonprofits, and the remaining 38 fellows have found work with other companies.
Memphis School Blues
Another big-city school district has had its funds yanked by a major funder. Last fall it was Pittsburgh (see “Nerves of Steel” in Philanthropy, September/October 2002). This year it’s Memphis, Tennessee, where Will Deupree, board chair of Partners in Public Education Memphis (a member of the Public Education Network), announced PIPE has halted funds to the city’s schools. In an editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Deupree explained, “PIPE has tried to help the school system. We have paid for leadership training for principals. We have helped put model teaching programs in place and provided grants to inspired teachers to bring creative ideas to their classrooms. But too many of our schools are failing.” In fact, Memphis city schools graduate less than 50 percent of their students. Deupree concludes, “we are saying as plainly as we can that we will spend no new money until we are satisfied that those who govern and lead the city schools are truly devoted to reform.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that last year when Chris Abele announced he would be moving the Argosy Foundation, which he heads, from Boston to Milwaukee, he explained his motives clearly: “My goal is to be larger and more significant than the Bradley Foundation, but with a much different political bent.” Since then, he has “toned down the talk and expressed respect” for some of the Bradley Foundation’s work. Abele’s family will remain heavily involved in the foundation’s grantmaking. His parents, who remain in Boston; his sister Jean Abele Bolton, who lives in Boulder, Colorado; and his brother Alex, who lives in Vermont will each control a roughly equal share of the funds. Bolton told the Journal Sentinel her main interests are the environment and education, and that “she may open an Argosy office in Boulder.” Chris Abele’s interests lean toward the arts, and he is heavily involved in Milwaukee arts organizations. For his part, Bradley president Michael Grebe says he is pleased with Argosy’s move to Milwaukee. “I’m hoping it means increased philanthropy here in Milwaukee.” Grebe also hopes the two foundations can jointly fund some efforts.
According to a Chicago Tribune story, in September 2000, two Terra Foundation board members sued Judith Terra-widow of Daniel J. Terra the founder of Chicago’s Terra Museum of American Art-because they believed she was trying to move the museum to Washington, D.C., contrary to Mr. Terra’s wishes. A Cook County Circuit judge sided last year with the board members and ordered that the museum’s $100 million collection remain in Chicago and that the Terra Foundation remain in Illinois for 50 years. The judge also ordered that all board members resign and be replaced. Judith Terra filed an appeal in February, contending that “some board members were coerced [by the Illinois attorney general] into supporting the deal.” Further, she claims that her husband had wanted the museum moved to Washington because “he felt it would thrive there,” the Tribune reports. Floyd Perkins, chief of the attorney general’s charitable trust bureau, said, “Our take was always that Mr. Terra intended the museum for Illinois.” Judith Terra will argue that “the Terra Foundation may not lawfully be confined within Illinois, it may not be stripped of its collections, and its board may not be handpicked by the attorney general.”
CDC Gets ‘em Young
Middle school students in Gwinnett County, Georgia—120 of them—recently solved a mysterious disease outbreak. The Atlanta Constitution-Journal describes a CDC-planned mock town in which students’ parents were “victims,” their children had to recognize symptoms, quarantine those affected, and identify the disease. The exercise was part of a pilot program funded by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to give middle school students studying life science “an opportunity for a practical application of what they studied in class.” The school district hopes to expand the program across Georgia.
From Leaf-blowers to Scholarships
More than five years ago, a group of gardeners in Menlo Park, California, went before the city council to stop it from enacting a leaf-blower ban. The gardeners lost—that time. According to the San Jose Mercury News, most of them were “from Mexico with no more than sixth-grade schooling.” To help in future struggles, gardner Ramon Quezada formed an association. According to the Mercury News, Latino-based groups have traditionally used similar groups “to exert political, social, and economic clout. But while the more traditional movements led by farmworkers or janitors’ unions relied on in-your-face protests, the self-employed gardeners have thrived using cooperation, alliance-building, and compromise.” From this beginning, the association has not only overturned the leaf-blower ban, but more significantly has now managed to negotiate medical insurance the gardeners can afford with Kaiser hospitals. And the association is working with Philanthropic Venture Foundation in Oakland, California, to create scholarships for their children. Ruben Barrales, a deputy assistant to President Bush who marched with the gardeners group when he was a San Mateo County supervisor, said, “Some people might look at the gardeners and see poor, working immigrants. I look at them and see hard-working Americans who are building a better future for their children.”
Alvarado Leaving San Diego
Anthony Alvarado, chancellor of instruction for the San Diego school system, will leave in September according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Superintendent Alan Bersin called Alvarado’s departure “a mutual decision based on a joint and shared assessment of where we are” in reforming San Diego city schools. Alvarado introduced the Blueprint for Student Success, which the Union-Tribune says “increased teacher training, set up a training academy for principals, doubled and sometimes tripled the amount of student time spent on reading and writing instructions, beefed up classroom libraries, expanded summer school, and dispatched teaching coaches.” Before the Blueprint, San Diego schools spent about $1 million a year on professional development. This year, they will spend some $55 million. The Union-Tribune says Alvarado’s reforms have “received the praise of researchers and foundations nationally,” although teachers’ union representatives complain the reforms were “imposed without their consultation.”
If you see the Jack Nicholson film About Schmidt, reports the Washington Post, notice when Schmidt sees a commercial to sponsor a child for $22 a month through a group called Childreach. The organization, the child profiled, and the toll-free number are all real. According to the Post, “Childreach has hitched its wagon to a Hollywood star vehicle in no uncertain terms.” And it’s working. Before the film’s release, Childreach would sign up only two or three new sponsors in a weekend. Last weekend it had 80, said Childreach CEO Sam Worthington. The success is drawing lots of attention, not all of it good. The Post reports that “charity watchdog Daniel Borochoff says the system [of sponsoring a child] is an expensive marketing ploy that plays to donors’ sense of importance.” He says, “people need to get their ego out of it and just look to use their money to help in the best way that they can.” The Post reports that most organizations have “scuttled the practice of sending sponsor money directly to the children. Instead, donations are pooled and distributed to help communities in which the children live.” But many organizations that use sponsorships in their pitches refer only obliquely to the practice of pooling resources. Childreach, for example, states on its website, “The children shown here are waiting for someone like you to be their sponsor.” Later it notes that donations don’t go directly to families.
Seeding Hope for Nigeria
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that children in Nigeria—Africa’s most populous and most politically explosive nation—may soon find hope for better lives because of a chance meeting between Emmanuel Itapson, a graduate student at Hebrew Union College and a native of Nigeria, and Jeff Greer, the pastor of Grace Chapel in Mason, Ohio. The two were having dinner recently, when what started as a pleasant evening turned into a brainstorming session about how to reverse the violence and hunger that plagues Nigeria. The result is SSE, or Self-Sustaining Enterprises. According to the Enquirer, the new nonprofit will “bring a food processing plant, a boarding school, and a healthcare program to Nigeria.” “This reminds me of some kind of World Bank Project,” Deborah Kittner of the World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati told the Enquirer, “but it’s driven by individual passion and interest, and that’s what brings success.” The plan, according to the Enquirer, is to develop in Nigeria “a food processing and agriculture program that will use crops in its communities to produce a variety of non-perishable foods—dry fruits, vegetables, and box drinks. Profits from the food processing plant would then be used to: sustain a boarding school that focuses on underprivileged children, on-the-job training at working farms, vocational training, and basic healthcare.” Once established, the two men hope the program can be replicated in other developing countries. Prominent supporters include Rodger Reed of Cintas Group; Mark Burrell of Procter & Gamble; Steve Stolz, formerly of Sara Lee Food Group; and Dave Brown, formerly of LensCrafters.