Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1999 Gates Millennium Scholars

Millenium Scholar

Just before the turn of the millennium, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put into operation a major college scholarship program for minority students, with an initial grant of a cool billion dollars that was later increased to $1.6 billion. Every year, the Millennium Scholars program selects 1,000 new African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American college prospects and offers them good-through-graduation scholarships (set at various levels to cover their need). These can be used at any college the student chooses. The program particularly aims to encourage minorities to enter scientific fields like computer science, math, public health, and engineering (where they are underrepresented), and any Millenium Scholar in good standing who finishes an undergraduate degree and wants to continue on to grad school in one of these technical fields will also have their graduate education paid for by Gates.

In addition to financial aid, the program offers leadership development, mentoring, internships, and other resources to help students succeed—which collectively have yielded a rate of college graduation within six years of nearly 90 percent, more than double the average for all African Americans. Since its establishment, the Gates Millennium Scholars program has propelled more than 16,000 young Americans through their educational careers, and 28 percent have gone on to graduate school, half of them in the technical fields that Gates has particularly targeted.

Gates Millennium Scholars Program,

Surprising White House Executive Action Critics: The Brother’s Keeper Philanthropy Controversy

By Howard Husock

It’s not often that President Obama faces criticism from the liberal left regarding his Administration’s policy initiatives in matters involving race and disadvantage.  Which is what makes so notable an opinion piece in the latest Chronicle of Philanthropy criticizing My Brother’s Keeper, the President’s program, announced this past February, “to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.”  That focus was a cause of concern for NoVo Foundation executive director Pamela Shifman and former Schott Foundation program manager Nakisha Lewis, who wrote that Brother’s Keeper inappropriately overlooks the “dire straits” of many “minority women and girls”, including “epidemic levels of of domestic violence.”.  The article goes further in criticizing Brother’s Keeper for   “elevating a patriarchal conception of a “good” family—boys of color will grow up to be fathers and heads of households that are made up of nuclear families.”

There is little doubt that both minority males and females are not faring nearly as well as they should in the U.S.—and that both philanthropy and government have their roles to play in improving their educational and economic outcomes. But what makes the criticism proffered by Shifman and Lewis notable is their concern that My Brother’s Keeper is sending a signal from the White House to U.S. foundations and philanthropists—to focus one one group at the potential expense of the other. It’s a criticism that matters because of the nature of My Brother’s Keeper.  It’s not a federal program so much as an effort by the White House to focus private giving and match it with non-federal government appropriations. As the White House has put it:  ”Through this initiative, the Administration is joining with cities and towns, businesses, and foundations who are taking important steps to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way into the middle class.”

Put another way, the President has put his thumb on the scale used by donors when they decide what missions they should support.  Whether one agrees with the views of Shifman and Lewis about family structure or not, they are quite right to be concerned that the White House is throwing its weight behind a select approach.  Historically, as I’ve argued in my book Philanthropy Under Fire, government and philanthropy have operated independently of each other—allowing philanthropy to identify problems government lacks the means or understanding to deal with.

The Obama White has consistently chosen a different approach—choosing, instead,  to signal to philanthropy the sorts of causes which should merit support. This has been, for instance, the animating principle of the White House Social Innovation Fund, the   Obama Administration initiative mounted through the Corporation for National and Community Service.  It invites private donors to match White House-directed funds dedicated to addressing select social ills—ranging from HIV/AIDS to “community-driven initiatives to combat obesity and tobacco use”.

As with those addressed by My Brother’s Keeper, these are, without doubt, problems which merit attention.  But by signaling what it views as the nation’s most important social problems—in effect through executive action—the Obama White House has risked undermining the traditional independence and creativity of private philanthropy (which, it must be noted, has not been all that reluctant to throw itself into the arms of government, or to see its ideas brought “to scale” as government programs, often ineffectively).

The objections to My Brother’s Keeper show us even those who may broadly agree with the concerns of the Obama White House can be put off by what can be seen as a nexus of big government and big philanthropy, which favors some causes over others.

It’s worth noting that there was a previous President who undertook a partnership with private philanthropy—one described by historian Oliver Zunz (in Philanthropy in America:  A History) as “federally-directed philanthropy.”  It was tried in the Administration of a President one suspects is not on President Obama’s short list of favorite predecessors:  Herbert Hoover.  And, notes historian Zunz, “it collapsed under the sheer scale of what was needed and under the pressure of conflicting visions of social justice.”  The White House executive action to direct philanthropy appears to be leading to just those sort of conflicting visions once again.

This article originally appeared in Forbes and is published here with permission of the author.

ACR Blog: Private Charitable Giving: A New Italian Tradition


Private charitable giving has played a significant role in the United States in preserving our country’s historical culture and landmarks. For example, David M. Rubenstein is one of many well-known philanthropists who share a passion for preserving American history. According to a recent Washington Post article, Rubenstein, who agreed to cover $7.5 million of the cost of restoration for the Washington Monument after the 2011 earthquake, has also made a donation of $12.35 million to restore Gen. Robert E. Lee’s home at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Continue reading…

Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1882 Great Libraries From Enoch Pratt—and Others


Enoch Pratt arrived in Baltimore from a Massachusetts farm with nothing but $150 in his pocket, but he was frugal and industrious and eventually thrived in a variety of businesses. In 1882 he offered to give the city of Baltimore a major circulating library for free public use, along with 32,000 books, plus four branch libraries in different quarters of the city, and an endowment of $1,058,333 for upkeep and future expansion. Once built, the Pratt almost immediately became one of the most heavily used libraries in the country, and it thrived over the century and a quarter since. Andrew Carnegie described it in The Gospel of Wealth as the best such institution in the country, and he cited Pratt as his exemplar for his own nationwide library program which he launched the year Pratt’s main library opened. In fact, two decades after the initial opening of the Pratt Library, Carnegie donated a half-million dollars to Baltimore to allow the building of 20 additional branches—part of his wider campaign that paid for the erection of more than 2,500 libraries (see the 1881 Carnegie Library entry in our companion list of major achievements in the arts and culture).

These were just two of the many American philanthropists who lifted American literacy and learning by donating important collections of books to the public. The grandfather of them all was Benjamin Franklin, who in league with a group of friends incorporated the Library Company of Philadelphia, the first such entity in British North America, in 1731 (see separate entry below). In 1814, Thomas Jefferson offered his large and impossible-to-replicate library to Congress for official use after the British burned Washington. Judah Touro gave the American West its first public collection of books when he offered to put up the Touro Free Library in the city of New Orleans in 1824, and at his death he helped endow the famous Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island. John Jacob Astor gave $400,000 to New York in 1848 to establish a library, later combined with the $2 million library given by James Lennox, as well as a trust containing most of the wealth of Samuel Tilden, to form the New York Public Library. With a $50,000 gift and 30,000 books “of permanent value,” financier Joshua Bates launched the Boston Public Library, whose main reading room remains named for him.

These gifts transformed libraries, over the course of just a couple generations, from luxuries possessed by the wealthy for self-improvement available to all. Today there are more than 16,000 public libraries in the U.S., and they are visited a billion and a half times every year.

Enoch Pratt Library history,
Original Pratt documents,

ACR News 08.08.14—No Recess for the ACR Newsletter

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Philanthropic Achievement of the Week
>> Federal: ACR Panels at the Annual Meeting<
>> Top Reads: Are Americans getting less greedy?

Washington Roundup

With Congress out of session for the month of August, we will be providing you with slightly abbreviated editions of the ACR newsletter. As we did in our last newsletter, we highly encourage you to reach out to your elected federal officials while they are back in their home states and districts. Again, we recommend you take a moment to watch the eight-minute video below of former congressional staffers explaining why it is so important to engage with your elected officials.

Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

For the last several months, ACR has posted a weekly spotlight of great achievements accomplished through private charitable giving. These achievements are being collected by The Philanthropy Roundtable in a groundbreaking almanac on American philanthropy. The almanac will be available in print in 2015, but excerpts can be accessed online.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to spotlight these great achievements on a weekly basis.  A few of the projects we have highlighted include:

ACR Panels at the Annual Meeting

With the The Philanthropy Roundtable’s annual meeting just two months away, ACR has finalized its portion of the agenda. ACR will again feature three panels at this year’s meeting, which is slated to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 9-10.

Tax Reform and the Preservation of Private Giving Incentives

  • Howard Husock, vice president for policy research and director of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, Manhattan Institute
  • Stephen Moore, chief economist, Heritage Foundation
  • Steven Woolf, senior tax policy counsel, Jewish Federations of North America
  • Joanne Florino, senior vice president of public policy, The Philanthropy Roundtable (Moderator)

Proposed IRS 501 c(4) Rules and Possible 501 c(3) Implications

  • John Pomeranz, partner, Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg
  • Bradley A. Smith, chairman and founder, Center for Competitive Politics
  • Gineen Bresso, vice president of special projects and general counsel, Wasie Foundation (Moderator)
  • In a related note on this topic, you can watch a hearing of the House Oversight Committee from July 30 that further examines the IRS scandal and explores options of how to prevent it from happening in the future.

    Legislative Threats to Donor-advised Funds

  • Whitney Ball, president and CEO, DonorsTrust
  • Brent Christopher, president and CEO, Communities Foundation of Texas
  • Benjamin Pierce, president, Vanguard Charitable Endowment
  • Sandra G. Swirski, executive director, Alliance for Charitable Reform, and partner, Urban Swirski (Moderator)
  • Additionally, plenary sessions at the annual meeting will feature:

  • George F. Will, syndicated columnist
  • Jon Huntsman, Sr., 2014 recipient of the William E. Simon Prize
  • United States Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • R. Brent Adams, director, Center for Animation, and professor, Brigham Young University
  • Jack Horner, curator of paleontology, Museum of the Rockies
  • Jason Tejada, recipient, Children’s Scholarship Fund
  • Make sure to visit the annual meeting page of The Philanthropy Roundtable’s website for more information on the annual meeting, including instructions for registration.

    Top Reads

    Please feel free to email us at if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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    Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

    2005 - Montana Meth Project

    Montana Meth Project

    Early in the new millenium, Montana was one of the top 10 states in methamphetamine usage. Fully 53 percent of kids in foster care were there because of meth, 50 percent of adults in prison had committed meth-related crimes, and the drug was costing the state tens of millions every year—not to mention human lives.

    When Montana resident Tom Siebel learned of this, he wanted to do something about it. Siebel was a software developer who had made billions designing software to manage customer relations. He began investing his own money to create the Montana Meth Project, which in 2005 launched the first of its memorable ad campaigns. The ads, ranging from billboards to television, show the effects of meth on the human body, relationships, and more—in graphic detail. The idea was to show teens (the target age group was 12-17 years) what they were getting into. The campaigns were based on extensive research about what kinds of communication and advertising had an effect on teenagers, and they were aired in such quantity that the Project became the single largest advertiser in the state.

    From 2005 to 2010, meth usage in Montana declined 63 percent according to the Montana Office of Public Instruction, a result of the public education done by the Meth Project, increased law enforcement, and state rehab programs. These results impressed Montana’s neighbors enough that by 2012 there were spinoff programs, also aided by Siebel, in seven other states (with more due to launch). The Montana Meth Project has won more than 50 awards and was named the third most effective philanthropy in the world by Barron’s.
    Since 2000, the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation has granted $229,677,507 to various charitable causes, including more than $30 million to the Meth Project.

    Philanthropy magazine on Siebel’s anti-meth campaign
    Montana Meth Project,
    Siebel Foundation,
    PBS story,

    ACR Blog: Paul Ryan on tax policy and private charitable giving

    Joanne Florino, senior vice president for public policy at the Philanthropy Roundtable, asks House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan about private philanthropy during a recent event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

    Continue reading…

    Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

    1933- Bringing the Science Museum to America

    Chicago Science

    One of the favorite places that Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald ever visited with his family was the Deutsches Museum in Munich—which (then as now) was the world’s foremost exhibit of technology and science. The inspired Rosenwald resolved to bring America its first great science museum, replete with a full-size re-created mine, huge machines, and clever interactive exhibits. To bring the project to fruition during the 1920s and ‘30s, he pledged $3 million of his own money (ultimately increased to $5 million).

    Even more crucial than Rosenwald’s inspiration and funding was his steely determination and executive resolve—every ounce of which was required to translate his dream into reality in the face of municipal incompetence, cost overruns, staff disputes, neighborhood resistance, engineering disasters, and myriad other roadblocks. Yet Rosenwald fiercely rebuffed every effort to place his name on the museum, reasoning that the people of Chicago would be more likely to feel they “owned” the institution—and thus be willing to expend effort to keep it healthy and fresh over the decades ahead—if the institution was simply identified with the city, not its main patron.

    Rosenwald seems to have calculated right, as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has continued to be updated and improved in dramatic ways. Today it remains the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, and the second most popular cultural attraction in its home city.
    Peter Ascoli, Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South (Indiana University Press, 2006)
    Museum of Science and Industry, History,

    Tax Policy and Private Charitable Giving

    Eugene Steuerle Discusses a New Study on How Tax Proposals Could Affect Giving

    Eugene Steuerle, who serves as the Richard B. Fisher Chair at the Urban Institute, discusses the most recent study from the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution entitled: Description and Analysis of the Camp Tax Reform Plan. Steuerle explains how the tax policy included in the draft affects the charitable sector and offers his thoughts on provisions that would help strengthen it.

    ACR News 07.28.14: House Passes Legislation, Expert Analysis of Camp Draft, Looking Ahead

    >> Federal: Washington Roundup
    >> Federal: Chairman Ryan Pens Op-Ed
    >> Federal: Senate Continues Hearings
    >> Federal: Interview with Eugene Steuerle
    >> Federal: Outlook Through the End of the Year
    >> Consider This: Connecting with Lawmakers in August
    >> Top Reads: House strengthens tax breaks for charitable giving

    Washington Roundup

    The House of Representatives passed H.R. 4719 – the America Gives More Act – on July 17 by a bipartisan vote of 277 -130. The bill makes permanent three charitable tax extenders (the IRA charitable rollover, the enhanced deduction for conservation easements, and the enhanced deduction for food donations). Additionally, H.R. 4719 includes two other provisions that are not tax extenders but have been ACR priorities for several years. First, the bill permanently streamlines the private foundation (PF) excise tax to a flat one percent rate; and second, it gives donors until April 15 to make charitable donations for the previous calendar year. ACR and several of our members were invited to brief the Ways and Means Nonprofit Tax Reform Working Group on the PF excise tax last year. We were told by staff for House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) that this briefing was instrumental in including the PF excise tax provision in H.R. 4719. 

    Just two weeks ago, ACR’s leadership team of donors and foundation leaders met with 16 House lawmakers and senior staff to encourage them to vote for H.R. 4719. We are pleased so many members voted for the bill and, when the time comes, we look forward to working with our champions in the Senate to pass the bill. 

    Chairman Ryan Pens Op-Ed

    Prior to a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on July 24, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) wrote an op-ed in USA Today touting a new anti-poverty campaign. During that speech, Ryan called for an expanded earned income tax credit as part of that plan. His credit would provide more benefits for childless workers and could be transformed into a monthly payment. We also note that Chairman Ryan was asked about private charitable giving at this AEI event by Joanne Florino, senior vice president for public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable.

    As you likely know, Chairman Ryan is expected to be the next Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after Chairman Camp retires at the end of this year. He was one of the House lawmakers that several members of ACR’s leadership team met in DC earlier this month.

    Ryan_ACR Group 2

    Senate Continues Hearings

    The Senate Finance Committee held the second of its summer hearings on comprehensive tax reform on July 22, focusing on the international section of the tax code and corporate inversions (the practice of US corporations shifting headquarters to low-tax jurisdictions). Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he plans to work on a short-term solution to help stem the growing frequency of inversions and use the space created by these immediate steps to pursue comprehensive tax reform.

    The Finance Committee held a third hearing on July 24 focused on Social Security. During his opening statement, Chairman Wyden said “On a bipartisan basis, Congress must ensure this safety net is not shredded. Let’s all focus on the vital goal, which is updating and protecting this essential program for generations to come.” While the hearing examined several potential long-term solutions to keep the program solvent, Congress is not scheduled to consider any of these in the near future.

    Interview with Eugene Steuerle

    ACR continues to be the organization providing firsthand access to the most influential policy experts for the nonprofit sector in our nation’s capital. The latest example is our discussion with Eugene Steuerle, who serves as the Richard B. Fisher Chair at the Urban Institute. Steuerle discusses the most recent study from the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution entitled: Description and Analysis of the Camp Tax Reform Plan. Steuerle explains how the tax policy included in the draft affects the charitable sector and offers his thoughts on provisions that would help strengthen it.

    Outlook Through the End of the Year

    Both the House and the Senate are set to go on a month-long summer recess this Thursday, July 31.  Both chambers will return the week of September 1, but only for a few weeks before adjourning again to campaign before the mid-term elections on November 4.  We expect the Senate Finance Committee to continue hearings on tax reform options but we don’t expect one of those hearings to be directly related to charitable issues. On the House side, the Ways and Means Committee continues to meet with groups about Chairman Camp’s tax reform draft.

    Lawmakers will then return to Washington for the lame duck session – the time period remaining on the legislative calendar after an election but before new Members are sworn in as part of a new session. The lame duck is expected to be very busy as Congress will likely punt big-ticket items into the lame duck and avoid risky votes before the election. Such items include a final resolution on tax extenders; legislation to fund the government into next year to avert a shutdown; and a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which provides a variety of loan, guarantee, and insurance products intended to aid the export of American goods and services. 

    Consider This—Connecting with Lawmakers in August

    Since lawmakers will be back in their home states and districts during the entire month of August, this is a great time to connect with them and discuss the importance of the nonprofit sector! We recommend you take a few minutes to watch the video below of former congressional staffers explaining why it is so important to engage with your elected officials.

    To help you prepare for your outreach, our friends at The Philanthropic Collaborative and the Foundation for the Carolinas hosted a webinar on July 15 to review a toolkit for connecting with lawmakers: Tools for Outreach to Policymakers.

    Top Reads

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