Writing in The New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer explores the question of anonymity among big donors — what prompts an anonymous gift, and why do some philanthropists purposefully not want to remain anonymous? Why do so many givers ask that stuff be named after them: buildings, rooms, endowed professorships? Judeo-Christian tradition cautions against self-promotion. With charity, the medieval Jewish sage Maimonides wrote, it is best that the giver and receiver not know each other’s identities — in this way, the poor person’s dignity is preserved. (Better than charity, he wrote, is to give a poor person a job.) In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches that “when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets” but rather “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” Do Mr. Schwarzman, Henry R. Kravis or David H. Koch — to pick three of the country’s most generous, and least anonymous, donors — consider these religious admonitions? They did not respond to this columnist’s calls or e-mails. But plenty of others were willing to speak to the matter. “The goal of all religion is to help you outwit your ego, shoot the sucker between the eyes, get it out of the way,” said Lawrence Kushner, an author and Reform rabbi who for 28 years served Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Mass. So his congregation did not permit any honors for donors — no plaques, no special thank-yous at the end of the sermon. Nothing. “It cost us about $10,000, $20,000 a month in money we could have otherwise got,” Rabbi Kushner estimated. But there was a big upside, “the awesome experience to look out over the congregation and see this guy who had just given $100,000 sitting next to the guy who I was giving money to from my discretionary fund,” with neither aware of the other’s finances. “The idea was, it’s not about you. If you want it to be about you, there are some wonderful congregations where, for enough money, it can be all about you.” Read more here.
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Check back for regular updates on the Pope Foundation, our grantees, and the broader philanthropic community.
Our new Grantee Profile focuses on Hospice of Wake County, a top-notch “hospice home” and community services building: Similar to most western nations, the United States is expected to see a significant increase in its older adult population in the coming decades. With that fact of life comes a bevy of needed services. One of those is compassionate end-of-life care. In Hospice of Wake County, North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh is blessed to have a top-notch “hospice home” and community services building. Nestled in the middle of an idyllic sheep farm in west Raleigh, Hospice offers comfort, peace, and hope to individuals and families facing life-ending illnesses. The need is significant. The older adult population in Wake County is expected to double by 2025, outpacing growth in the general population. In recent years, that growing need has led to major growth at Hospice of Wake County, and the John William Pope Foundation has been privileged to play an instrumental role. “Individuals often come to us after having exhausted all of their resources due to their illness or a medical crisis or a difficult family situation,” said John Thoma, Hospice of Wake County’s CEO. “We help to lift their burden, and we’re able to do so partly through gifts from generous foundations, including the Pope Foundation.” Read more Grantee Profiles here.
Our new Achiever Spotlight tells the story of Cathy Heath, an anti-forced annexation activist who has worked as a volunteer with Americans for Prosperity N.C. and the Civitas Institute: Raising a flag on a hill — that’s the word picture Cathy Heath uses to describe her decade-long fight to reform North Carolina’s annexation laws. Involuntary, or “forced,” annexation has long been a political hot potato in North Carolina. Cathy’s quest for reform began in 2001 when the Town of Cary threatened to annex her subdivision in northwest Wake County forcibly. The change would have meant higher taxes for Cathy and her neighbors. They didn’t want town services or the tax bill accompanying them. Cathy began researching the annexation issue and found that it was a significant problem in North Carolina and across the country. She became co-director of the Stop N.C. Annexation coalition, a grassroots effort to end forced annexation. “There were many communities across North Carolina upset about this issue,” she said. “They needed to start talking to one another. I saw there were enough people interested in this issue to make a difference.” Read more Achiever Spotlights here.
Conventional wisdom holds that students should, at a minimum, earn a bachelor's degree in order to secure a life of financial stability. But how does that conventional wisdom play out in real life? Not well, according to Jeffrey J. Selingo in this article in Forbes. He writes that they don't make bachelor's degrees like the used to. But training at a community college can prove valuable, especially given the low cost: Think a community-college degree is worth less than a credential from a four-year college? In Tennessee, the average first-year salaries of graduates with a two-year degree are $1,000 higher than those with a bachelor's degree. Technical degree holders from the state's community colleges often earn more their first year out than those who studied the same field at a four-year university. Take graduates in health professions from Dyersburg State Community College. They not only finish two years earlier than their counterparts at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but they also earn $5,300 more, on average, in their first year after graduation. In Virginia, graduates with technical degrees from community colleges make $20,000 more in the first year after college than do graduates in several fields who get bachelor's degrees. Yet high-school seniors are regularly told that community colleges are for students who can't hack it on a four-year campus.
Our new Grantee Profile focuses on the UNC-Duke Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program, a minor at UNC-Chapel Hill and certificate at Duke University that helps students broaden their thinking : The intersection of politics, economics, and morality has never been more important than it is today. Yet many times, these three subject areas are treated as distinct, unrelated categories. The goal of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University is to rejoin the three disciplines — and show how much they impact our daily lives. In the past, philosophy was closely related to economics, because thinkers’ view of economics was borne out of their moral convictions. But today, the disciplines increasingly diverge. That is where the UNC-Chapel Hill PPE program steps up. “Our distinctive feature is bringing together these three academic disciplines in a comprehensive and cohesive way, with a particular emphasis on the moral significance of each,” said Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Director of the PPE program at UNC-Chapel Hill. As the only joint UNC-Duke program at the undergraduate level, PPE has distinguished itself as a valuable addition to the repertoire of learning at both schools. Read more Grantee Profiles here.
To what degree does your country respect the freedom to be generous? That's the question examined in a new pilot study from the Center for Global Prosperity at the Hudson Institute. The new research explores the climate of philanthropic freedom in 13 nations. The study (PDF download) uses a variety of metrics — including the ease of creating philanthropic organizations and tax policies that either encourage or discourage individual generosity — to determine the level of restrictions in each country. The Hudson Institute's index of philanthropic freedom puts the Netherlands, the United States, Sweden, Japan, Australia, and Mexico at the top. Turkey, Russia, Egypt, and China round out the bottom. The study concludes: Many of the high scoring nations are also high income countries, reflecting the long history of philanthropy and civil society in these countries. Additionally, some emerging economies scored high also, reflecting an improving environment that is conducive to philanthropy in those nations. For example, South Africa, India, and Mexico have implemented policies that promote a healthy civil society and provide tax deductions for donors. Because this study assesses the barriers to civil society organizations and cross-border flows, countries that have restrictive regulations in these two categories scored lower, despite having relatively large tax incentives for donors. For example, countries such as Egypt and Russia provide tax deductions for donors, but the limitations on registration and operations of [charitable organizations] are restrictive. Furthermore, the barriers to the flow of cross-border foreign funds in both countries are tightly regulated and highly restrictive. The Hudson Institute plans to survey all countries in the future to provide a more complete picture.
Civic literacy in the United States is on the decline. But generous philanthropists are working to reverse that trend, and this article in the spring issue of Philanthropy magazine (published by the Philanthropy Roundtable) shows how: “We can live without learning French or being great in chemistry,” posits James Basker. “But how can you be an American citizen without knowing American history?” Basker, who is the president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, is hardly new to the field of civic education. He has been in his position for 16 years, overseeing the institute’s initiatives to increase knowledge of American history. But he believes there is a new opportunity now with the recent adoption of the Common Core standards by 46 states. Mind you, the standards themselves say nothing about history. In fact, Basker and others worry that if schools are only tested on literacy and math, then the teaching of history will recede even further. But Gilder Lehrman is adapting to the new standards. It has developed Teaching Literacy through History, for instance, a program that aims to help schools fulfill the standards by using the institute’s extensive collection of original historical documents to develop students’ critical thinking and analytical skills. To learn more about the Pope Foundation's support for similar education efforts, click here.