2008 Philanthropy Roundtable Annual Meeting

The Philanthropy Roundtable's 2008 Annual Meeting, Strengthening Our Free Society, was held in Naples, Florida from November 6-8.  The Philanthropy Roundtable is a national association of individual donors, foundation trustees and staff, and corporate giving officers, and its annual meeting provides a forum for its members to share ideas, strategies, and best practices and hear from America's experts in private innovation and forward-thinking policy.

At the Annual Meeting, two nonprofit leaders debated over whether Congress should require foundations to disclose information about how much of their giving supports the poor and minorities. This is a debate started in California where AB 624 was considered then dropped when a coalition of foundations together with the chairs of the three ethnic legislative caucuses, agreed to implement a new project aimed at helping nonprofit organizations that serve low-income and minority communities (read more about AB 624 here).

Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a foundation-watchdog group in Washington, argued in favor of new regulations.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that "[a]ccording to a study his organization is conducting, only one-third of giving by large foundations benefits “marginalized communities,” which he said included impoverished people, racial minorities, disabled people, and women." Dorfman said disclosure requirements would not threaten the freedom of grant makers to decide what causes their money goes to, but simply provide a window into what philanthropy is doing.

Heather R. Higgins, president of the Randolph Foundation, argued against new regulations, stating that they would discourage wealthy people from setting up philanthropies in America.  Higgins reportedly said: “Under the guise of punitive transparency laws, if you bureaucratize philanthropy, if you raise legal fear in the people who are involved in it, if you compromise the joy and personal fulfillment that comes from spontaneity, innovation, opportunity, and the sense that you act efficiently and are actually making a difference, then you will have killed the goose that produces those golden eggs.”