We are Watching

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

In Connecticut we have a very positive and productive relationship with our regulators to ensure that bad actors are weeded out and the charitable sector continues to grow, operate within the regulatory framework with integrity and continues to serve the people of Connecticut and beyond. The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, our board and members, subscribe to the highest principles and best practices in alignment with our mission  to promote and support effective philanthropy.

Below please find a link to our website and one of our core resources Guiding Principles and Effective Practices for Connecticut Grantmakers as well as others from the field that exist to maintain the integrity and accountability of the field. Thus far, along with our regulators, Philanthropy and our supporting organizations have done a good job of keeping us honest and strong in service to the common good with very few exceptions.


Last Sunday, David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, submitted an op-ed to the New York Times, “Who Will Watch the Charities?”.  I wanted to share some of my colleague’s responses to the op-ed as I feel they are consistent with my thinking.

“Who Will Watch the Charities?” op-ed by David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/opinion/sunday/who-will-watch-the-charities.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

Maggie Gunther Osborn, President, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy

Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers Response:

We applaud the state attorneys general and other regulators for cracking down on fraud by four charities highlighted in David Callahan’s May 30 Op-Ed (Who Will Watch the Charities?). The case he cites answers his own question and confirms the oversight process for the charitable sector is working.

Representing 5,500 organizations nationwide, our network of regional philanthropic associations works with state charity officials and nonprofit associations on effective governance, finance, administration and grantmaking for our member foundations and the thousands of nonprofits they support.

Our communities’ needs are great, and while fraud must be exposed and laws enforced, the charitable sector has a long history of effective partnerships with government. Callahan’s over-statement of the problem and confused recommendations are not helpful.  Frankly, we believe government should do more to encourage charitable giving.

Americans have the freedom to support charities of their choice, without government determining which are more worthy.  We must strengthen that tradition of U.S. philanthropy – not undermine it – to meet the challenges that limit opportunities for all to succeed.

David Biemesderfer, Chair; and Mary O’Neill, Interim Director for the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers

Philanthropy New York Response:

In his disingenuous opinion piece “Who Will Watch the Charities?” David Callahan asks an important question, but one that already has an answer. New York charities have an effective regulator: the New York State Attorney General and his Charities Bureau. The Nonprofit Revitalization Act, implemented last year, is an important indication that New York’s watchdog is indeed paying attention.

Callahan conflates very different kinds of organizations. He treats deceptive cancer charities and public foundations as if they are the same as endowed private foundations, and then takes a problem from one to create a solution for another.  Charity scams in the nonprofit sector are abhorrent. They deserve serious attention. Instead, Callahan stiches together the latest scandalous headlines with lots of holes in his net, but wide enough to ensnare tons of philanthropic by catch.  Oversimplifying the sector and then creating “fixes” based on the bad behavior of a few is a great way to grab attention, but a poor way to actually increase transparency and accountability.

Characterizing the charitable sector as the “Wild West” is wholly inaccurate hyperbole, in a piece that is literally full of it. The sector benefits from thoughtful and strategic thinking – not cheap shots.

Ronna Brown, President; and Michael Hamill Remaley, Senior Vice President, Public Policy for Philanthropy New York