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Whose Criteria for Philanthropy?

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is causing a stir with its new publication Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best. The premise of the report, stated in the Executive Summary, is that “Current philanthropic practice accomplishes many beneficial things, but it’s insufficient to play the substantive role needed to solve the urgent problems facing our nation and the world. Grantmakers simply aren’t delivering as much social benefit as they could.” NCRP proposes four criteria, Values, Effectiveness, Ethics, and Commitment, and then challenges foundations to realize these values by working toward ten specific benchmarks. The benchmarks describe grantmaking that many of our nonprofit clients yearn for – including more multi-year grants and operating support, as well as six percent minimum payout, mission-related investment of the foundation corpus, and greater support of low-income and otherwise marginalized communities and more support of advocacy and civic engagement. But not everyone is in agreement on all points laid out in the publication. Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a countervailing view in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that donor intent may be quite different from philanthropic purposes suggested by NCRP, but yet may still be quite worthwhile and effective.

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