Free speech…as long as your funders approve what you are saying

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

Have you ever had a grant rescinded? How about, have you ever had a grant or donation rescinded because of something your organization took a position on?

Well, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) knows what its like. The California Wellness Foundation disagreed with the NCRP’s recent report that said foundations should have half of their gifts go to “poor and other disadvantaged people”, so the foundation cancelled their membership and sent a letter asking for their $10,000 grant back.

This brings up two totally unrelated, but important issues: should nonprofits be “punished” for taking positions on issues and should 50% of foundation money go towards poor and disadvantaged people?

My thoughts are that foundations (or donors for that matter) shouldn’t be able to take back a gift unless it was misused – which wasn’t the case here. If a donor or foundation gives a general gift, then that money is used however the nonprofit deems appropriate. Unless the nonprofit significant changes its mission immediately after the donation takes place, I don’t think gifts should be able to be rescinded.

As for the 50% of grants going towards poor and disadvantaged people, I think that since there are many important causes no foundation should be expected to give a percentage of their gifts towards a cause that others deem to be the most important. Is helping the poor and disadvantaged an important cause? Yes. But so is the environment and cancer research and education (you get my point). Which cause is the most important is subjective – it depends on who you ask. Foundations should be able to give their money to whatever cause they want to. It’s their money.

Read the full article “Foundation Rescinds Grant to Watchdog Group” in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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