Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NPTtv Summary: Hung Jury: Philanthropy Put on "Trial"

Note: This is a summary of a story from the newest webcast of The NonProfit Times TV.  To view the video of this story in full, follow the links in this post.

Thought ideas couldn't be put on trial?  Tell that to the Council on Foundations.

Charged with not fulfilling its mission to advance the public good, philanthropy was put on "trial" at the Council on Foundation's annual conference in Philadelphia. Gara LaMarche, President and CEO of Atlantic Philanthropies, played the role of prosecutor in the mock trial, and he argued that philanthropy is a privilege, not a right. During his ten-minute opening statement, LaMarche also accused philanthropy of excessive self-interest, and a lack of diversity and focus on systemic change; especially in comparison to charities. He concluded by saying that society has the right to recalibrate as needed.

Of course, no trial is complete without a defense as well, and arguing for the defense was Ralph R. Smith, Executive Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Smith countered LaMarche's points by arguing that philanthropic dollars are being invested in projects inspired by a large diversity of people.  For example, both libertarians and those who think government should play a larger role in everyday life both are involved in philanthropic giving.  Despite their differences, Smith says these two groups serve as the standard bearers of philanthropy, and that diversity remains one of its hallmarks. He concluded by saying that philanthropy must be protected.

His pleas, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears.  It appears LaMarche's arguments were effective, because only two members of the jury voted to acquit philanthropy.

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