Asian American Philanthropists and Asian American Needs

NYT

Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

January 8, 2013; Source: New York Times

The Pew Research Center heralded, six months ago, the rise of Asian Americans, noting that they are “the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.”

This perpetuation of the model minority myth – as not all Asian Americans are wealthy, healthy and wise – continues in a recent New York Times article which announces the arrival of the Asian American philanthropic class: affluent immigrants and their children who have joined other one or two percenters in bailing others out via their noblesse oblige. The article describes “elegant galas” where wealthy Koreans “dined on beef tenderloin with truffle butter, bid on ski and golf vacations in a charity auction, and gave more than $1 million to a nonprofit group.” The article goes on to note that wealthy Asian Americans are also looking beyond their communities and generously donating to “prestigious universities, museums, concert halls and hospitals — like Yale University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” It isn’t difficult to imagine the impetus. They have indeed arrived and want to see their names on donor lists and placards along with other fabulously rich Americans.

We live in a free country and people are free to choose how to spend their money. However, charitable deductions are lost government revenue which could be used on programs and services that benefit struggling Americans. Institutions like Yale are more than adequately endowed. Smaller nonprofits, including less pedigreed colleges, are in more dire need of donations. Community-based nonprofits that pull up those Asian Americans who are not so fortunate could use more dollars from those Asian Americans who have “made it.” Perhaps these new members of the elite donor club would consider focusing their largesse on organizations that might not be as glamorous but that address the ongoing issues and unmet needs of the Asian American community.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Newswire, January 14, 2013.

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The Risks of Limiting Charitable Deductions

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November 30, 2012; Source: The Government We Deserve

In his Urban Institute blog, The Government We Deserve, the Tax Policy Center’s Gene Steuerle looks to the past to auger the future of charitable deductions. He suggests that rather than eliminate charitable deductions altogether to increase much needed revenue, government should consider other options. He cites a 2003 GAO study which details what happened when tax deductions on donated cars were curtailed: claims for donated vehicles dropped. This was dramatically illustrated as only a graph could.

Stats

Based on this, Steuerle, reiterates the argument that limiting charitable deductions will dampen giving, which threatens nonprofit coffers and ultimately hurts those who benefit from programs and services provided by the sector.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “there is no specific plan to eliminate deductions for charitable giving” in the ongoing haggling over the fiscal cliff. There are, however, proposals to cap overall deductions which some argue would negatively impact charitable donations.

Is the change that occurred in auto donations after the enactment of new regulations likely to be comparable to any potential change that might be enacted in the charitable tax deduction? We’d love readers’ opinions on this.

As with so many other tax revenue and deficit reduction proposals being floated, we really don’t know what will be in the final mix that keeps us from falling over the looming precipice. Steuerle and others think policymakers should be equipped with as much good and evidenced-based information as possible in making such monumental decisions. Weigh in.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, December 3, 2012.

Ford, Kellogg, and Kresge Pledge $1M to Asian American Pacific Islander Communities

April 13, 2012; Source: The Asian Journal

The Ford, W.K. Kellogg, and Kresge foundations pledged $1 million to support Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities at a recent White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders briefing. The convening had over 200 participants, including philanthropic leaders from more than 50 foundations.

“This effort is historic in that it is the first time the White House is bringing together foundation leaders, federal officials and community experts to discuss the needs of this often-overlooked group,” said Chris Lu, co-chair of the initiative and assistant to the president. “We must work together to make sure that no community is invisible to its government.”

The AAPI community is the fastest growing racial group in the United States, increasing by 46 percent over the last decade. According to the U.S. Census, the Asian American community includes individuals of Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Pakistani, Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian descent. It also includes those who are Hawaiian, Guamese, Samoan and other Pacific Islanders.

Elected officials and policy makers, along with the general public, are generally ignorant of the unique needs and concerns of this diverse group. This is due to their combined small number compared to Latinos and African Americans; their lack of representation at the highest levels of government, commerce industry, and philanthropy; and the myth of the “model minority”—the idea that all Asians are healthy, wealthy and wise.

But not all Asians are so fortunate. Close to 13 percent of AAPIs live below poverty. The stats are worst among Southeast Asians: 38 percent of Hmongs, 29 percent of Cambodians, and 17 percent of Vietnamese live below poverty. Second, AAPIs suffer certain health conditions worse than other Americans. Cervical cancer incidence rates are among the highest in the country for Laotian, Samoan, Vietnamese, and Cambodian women. Over half of Americans chronically infected with Hepatitis B are AAPIs. Third, not all AAPI children and youth do well in our schools. Nearly a quarter of AAPI students are “limited English proficient.” The dropout rate among Southeast Asians is mind-blowing: 40 percent of Hmong, 38 percent of Laotian, and 35 percent of Cambodian youth do not complete high school.

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hopes that partnerships among government agencies, community-based organizations, and foundations would uplift the AAPI community.

Ford Foundation President Luis Ubiñas said that the $1 million committed by the foundations will “support follow up program planning for some of the outstanding ideas that emerged from the White House event that will improve the quality of life of AAPI communities.” Among these ideas are building community capacity; improving language access; tackling significant disparities among Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asian Americans; and combating discrimination, bullying, and harassment of South Asian and Muslim communities.

This effort only scratches the surface. As Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson observed, this “momentous conversation between federal and philanthropic leaders addressing the critical needs of the AAPI community marks the beginning of what we hope is a long and productive partnership.”

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Vice President for Program Strategy Dr. Gail Christopher also underscored that addressing the challenges faced by the AAPI community “will require both philanthropic and governmental organizations to evaluate their strategic plans to ensure that the critical needs of these marginalized communities are addressed.”

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, April 16, 2012.

Need Nonprofits Fret About the President’s Budget?

The federal budget President Obama sent to Congress last week has some in the nonprofit sector worried, but are they fretting about the right stuff?

The president’s $3.8 trillion proposal for fiscal year 2013 includes increased revenues and spending cuts. Revenues in the order of $1.5 trillion will be raised over a decade by allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for high-income taxpayers and putting a cap on their itemized deductions; by raising taxes on the top 1 percent (the “Buffet Rule”); and by reinstating the estate tax at higher levels. Savings include non-health mandatory spending and entitlement cuts and the elimination of hundreds of programs.

Nonprofit leaders and advocates have expressed concern over the suggested limitations on charitable deductions, tax increases for millionaires, and higher estate taxes.

Sue Santa, senior vice president of the Philanthropy Roundtable, told the NonProfit Times, “The president is sending mixed messages to the charitable community. On one hand, he wants to limit the charitable deduction. On the other, he wants millionaires to continue to give to charity while also paying higher taxes.”

“We thought we had turned the corner of the issue, that we had made progress with the administration, only to learn that we are back to square one,” Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, told the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Her coalition of nonprofits and foundations opposes policies that discourage private giving and has advocated for preserving the status quo.

The fear is that higher taxes on the wealthy would result in less giving.

The president’s budget is a request that will not be enacted in its entirety. Congress will have its own ideas about what to keep and what to toss out. It is highly unlikely under a Republican-controlled House that the wealthy will suffer higher taxes anytime soon. It is almost guaranteed however, in today’s economic and political climate, that funding of programs will suffer.

And this is where nonprofits should be concerned.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy points out that “the $3.8-trillion blueprint proposes no drastic cuts to social programs. But it proposes few big increases either, despite what nonprofit leaders say is a growing need for services to help people recover from the economic downturn.”

The demand for human services remains strong while funding, from government and private sources, has not kept up with the cost of providing these services. Entitlement and programmatic cuts will further strain human service nonprofits that can barely keep up with the needs of their clients.

Nonprofits should fret, not much about the remote possibility of lost largesse, but about the real threat faced by programs that prop up those at the bottom, the most vulnerable among us.

 Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog, February 22, 2012.

The Nonprofit Sector In 2011 And Beyond

Now is when some us look back at the year that’s about to end and make predictions about the coming one. Recent reports and events from the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (CNP) give us a snapshot of the nonprofit sector in 2011 and a peek at what nonprofits face in 2012 and beyond.

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief: Public Charities, Giving, and Volunteering, 2011 reports that the sector is burgeoning.

More than 1.4 million nonprofits are registered with the Internal Revenue Service, a 19-percent increase over the first decade of this century. And this number excludes organizations that aren’t required to register with the IRS—namely, nonprofits with less than $5,000 annual revenue or religious congregations that opt not to register.

Private giving is on the uptick, reaching $291 billion in 2010, after a decline during the Great Recession. Forty-four percent of nonprofits saw contributions rise during the first half of 2011, and 25 percent said contributions held steady. In 30 percent of charities, funding fell.

Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, points out that at the current rate of increase, funding wouldn’t return to prerecession levels for six years.

CNP discussions with nonprofit leaders and experts also confirmed that challenges will dog the sector well into the future. Less government funding. Growing demand for programs and services. Heightened funder scrutiny and demand for accountability. Challenges to the nonprofit tax-exempt status. Combined, these forces could put many charities at risk.

Some experts on performance management and mission effectiveness do see these challenging times as a possible “inflection moment.” Twenty leaders from government, nonprofits, philanthropy, and business agreed at a recent convening that nonprofits have every reason right now “to step out of their comfort zones, take a hard look at what they’re doing well and what needs work, and look for new means of assessing and improving their performance as they adapt to the ‘new normal’ and learn to do more with less.”

In an earlier blog I also listed possible workarounds and solutions for nonprofits. Be strategic about limited resources. Collaborate and partner. Identify and reward best and promising practices. Innovate. Advocate for the sector, especially at the state and local levels. Educate the public. Harness technology and the internet.

It will be rough sailing ahead for nonprofits, but those that can ride the wave will land in solid ground, better and stronger.

Originally posted on Urban Institute MetroTrends Blog, December 29, 2011.

“Google for Nonprofits” Will Not Offer Grants to Churches—Because of Religious Content and Proselytizing

August 25, 2011; Source: Christianity Today | Google for Nonprofits’ webpage, in big and bold print, beckons, “You’re changing the world. We want to help.”

The tech behemoth invites nonprofits to apply for its program that grants to selected organizations products and resources that can help any nonprofit “expand its impact.” Google offers free or discounted versions of its apps, free advertising, premium branding and increased uploads on YouTube, and free licensing for mapping technologies. This is a great opportunity for nonprofits that would otherwise not have the resources to invest in IT.

Some organizations, however, are not eligible for this largesse. Google precludes communities or groups that require “membership and/or provid[e] benefit solely to members;” those that have “religious content or proselytizing on their websites as well as organizations that use religion or sexual orientation as factors in hiring or populations served;” and those that serve “a primarily political function such as lobbying, think tanks and special interests.” Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities are also barred unless an organization’s sole purpose is to serve a disadvantaged community. Finally, places or institutions of worship need not apply.

The restrictions come as bad news to purveyors of the Good News.

Christianity Today reports that Brian Young, IT director for Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, had high hopes when he applied for Google support. Apparently Google had once welcomed congregations but tightened its restrictions over the summer.

Young had envisioned how he would utilize Google’s products and services to proselytize. He had planned to unify 50 paid staff members and 270 volunteers with customized Gmail and office software, distribute video of Sunday services through a premium YouTube channel, beam live feeds of faraway missionaries using Google Video, and map locations of service projects and missionaries with Google Earth. He had hoped to promote the 3,000-member church on Google and its advertising network. But Google sent him a rejection letter.

“There were so many things for nonprofits that were going to benefit us,” Young told Christianity Today. “We just wanted to use them.”

Lloyd Mayer, a Notre Dame Law School professor, points out that Google’s restrictions come as no surprise since corporations often exclude faith-based groups from their philanthropic programs. Mayer believes that Google is “trying to avoid anything that would reflect negatively on them.” That includes polarizing groups that might alienate most of its customers. Tim Postuma, council chairman of a 418-member church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, expressed his disappointment with Google, saying the company is “missing the mark here.”

Perhaps Postuma should not have cast that stone. Aren’t churches the first ones to exclude those who disagree or challenge their beliefs and those with lifestyles they judge sinful? In contrast, Google’s restrictions reflect the corporation’s desire to employ its technology for the greater good. And that includes disadvantaged populations and those that are discriminated against by exclusionary groups such as some faith-based organizations.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, August 29, 2011.