The Fine Art of Giving
The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home to the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera, will soon be renamed the David H. Koch Theater. The rechristening honors the generosity of David Koch, who recently agreed to donate $100 million toward the renovation of the landmark building. It will be the largest private capital donation in the history of Lincoln Center.
Koch is an executive vice president of Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas. The company owns a family of enterprises with $110 billion in annual revenues; its workforce consists of about 80,000 people in over 60 countries. With the acquisition of Georgia-Pacific in November 2005, Koch Industries became the nation’s largest privately held company. Among the brands owned by Koch Industries are Stainmaster, Lycra, Quilted Northern, and Dixie. New York Magazine recently named Koch the wealthiest person in New York City.
Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center, told the New York Times that “this gift puts the performing arts in another league of fundraising and helps to elevate our expectations and gives us all a tremendous vote of confidence.” It represents, he said, a “very important statement about the importance and the future of performing arts in this country.”
The terms of the donation stipulate that Koch will disburse the funds over a period of 10 years. Koch paid the first installment of $15 million over the summer, and will pay an additional $10 million annually for each of the following eight years. At the 10-year mark, he will make a final, $5 million, contribution. Further stipulated was the right of the theater to be renamed in 50 years for a new donor, with the Koch family enjoying the right of first refusal.
The theater is in the midst of a $200 million capital campaign, and Koch’s donation is the most substantial gift to date. The capital campaign intends to raise funds in order to enhance and update the auditorium and audience facilities of the theater.
The first phase of renovation is budgeted for $50 million and will fund new seats and carpets, a larger orchestra pit (with mechanical lift), a new lighting system, and new audiovisual equipment. The remaining $150 million is earmarked for an expected second phase, which will upgrade the lobby, dressing rooms, and other spaces in the theater, and bolster support for the theater’s endowment.
Brownsville takes the Broad Prize
The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation recently announced the 2008 recipient of the Broad Prize for Urban Education: the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD). The award was announced on October 14, 2008, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Broad Prize is the largest education prize in the country.
“Brownsville is the best-kept secret in America,” Eli Broad, founder of the Broad Foundation, announced at the ceremony. “In the face of stark poverty, Brownsville is outpacing other large urban districts nationwide because it is smartly focusing all resources on directly supporting students and teachers. Other school districts can learn a great deal from Brownsville’s success.”
The Broad Foundation’s announcement highlighted Brownsville’s success in outperforming similar districts in Texas, its impressive improvement by ethnic and income subgroups, its track record of closing achievement gaps, and its strong district-wide policies and practices. For example, last year, BISD’s Hispanic and low-income students at all grade levels outperformed their statewide peers in math, and outscored their statewide counterparts in reading at the elementary level.
Brownsville’s performance is especially impressive, the announcement also noted, given its challenging demographics. Located at the southernmost tip of Texas, BISD serves one of the poorest urban populations in the United States, with 94 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.
The Broad Prize awards a total of $2 million to “urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement, while reducing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students.” The winner receives $1 million in college scholarships for graduating seniors, while the four other finalists each receive $250,000. The 2008 finalists were the Aldine Independent School District, Texas; Broward County Public Schools, Florida; Long Beach Unified School District, California; and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida.
Hilton Prize Awarded
At a ceremony held on October 20, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded its 2008 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. This year’s winner is BRAC. With more than 100,000 employees, BRAC is the largest nonprofit in the southern hemisphere, serving more than 110 million people throughout Asia and Africa.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, along with its related entities, holds assets worth more than $4.2 billion; since its inception, it has committed more than $780 million to charitable projects throughout the world. The Hilton Prize is the world’s largest humanitarian prize, with a purse worth $1.5 million. It is presented annually at the Hilton Humanitarian Symposium, which gathers policymakers and practitioners to address critical humanitarian challenges. Former Hilton Prize recipients include, among others, Tostan, Heifer International, Casa Alianza, Doctors Without Borders, and Operation Smile.
Steven M. Hilton, the Hilton Foundation’s chief executive officer, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “BRAC’s approach to creating self-sufficient and sustainable programs on a massive scale has blazed a trail for development organizations around the world.”
Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC’s founder and chairman, announced that the organization would use the $1.5 million purse to create a challenge grant of $3 million through its American affiliate, BRAC USA. The $3 million would in turn be used to fund its recently established programs in southern Sudan. The BRAC initiative in Sudan is less than one year old, but already has 6,000 people enrolled in its microfinance program, 20 acres under cultivation, and 50 schools in progress.
“To receive the Hilton Prize is a great honor and tremendous validation of our work,” said Abed. “[It] will add to our momentum as we take on greater challenges to unleash the full potential of the poor, especially women, and realize justice and their full human rights.”
Senate Forms Philanthropy Caucus
Two Senators—Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina—have created a Philanthropy Caucus in the United States Senate. In late July, they sent a letter to their colleagues in the Upper House asking them to join the caucus to “support the long tradition of good works by the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.” The caucus intends to explore ways in which the legislative body can help support the work of philanthropists, grantmakers, and foundations.
Schumer and Burr’s letter praised America’s philanthropic tradition, highlighting its contributions to education, public health, clean water, and public libraries. “The work done by private foundations, nonprofit groups, and individual philanthropists plays essential roles in each of our states and it is increasingly important for Members of Congress to be informed about developments in the philanthropic sector,” the letter said.
The Senate caucus is modeled on the Congressional Philanthropy Caucus, created in the House of Representatives in March 2007. The House caucus is chaired by Robin Hayes, a Republican from North Carolina, who was the caucus’ co-creator with the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Democrat from Ohio. Tubbs Jones died on August 20, 2008, of a brain hemorrhage; the House caucus has not yet found a replacement for her.
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Rodney Emery, vice president of government relations at the Council on Foundations, has expressed interest in having the CoF prepare a briefing for both legislative caucuses.
Anonymous No More
In August 2008, the Supreme Court of Kentucky found that the University of Louisville—a public university in north-central Kentucky—must disclose the names of the roughly 47,000 individual donors to University of Louisville Foundation. The court ruled that, as a government entity, the foundation is subject to public scrutiny, thereby drawing to a close a seven-year legal battle.
The case began in 2001, when the Louisville Courier-Journal asked the foundation for information on donors to the McConnell Center for Political Leadership. (The McConnell Center is named for Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, who was instrumental in launching the academic center.) When the foundation refused to provide the names, the newspaper brought suit under the state’s open-records law.
“The public,” wrote Justice Bill Cunningham in the majority opinion, “has a legitimate interest in the amounts and sources of monies donated to the foundation, which ultimately fund the university.” The opinion continued: “Donors, particularly those making substantial gifts, may wish to influence the university’s decisions and policies or to have some type of benefit conferred upon them by the university. A legitimate question of influence is raised by such circumstances.”
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Will T. Scott wrote, “So what public interest could we possibly serve by thumbing our noses at potential wealthy donors who simply will not give if they have to suffer an aftermath of harassment by professional fundraisers?”
The court made an exception for 62 donors who had specifically requested anonymity before the ruling came down. Nevertheless, the court warned that future donors should not expect to contribute on condition of anonymity: “Future donors to the foundation are aware and on notice that their gifts are being made to a public institution.”