February 04, 2013

Public Welfare Fund Rebuts Trustee’s Criticisms

To the Editor:

On behalf of my fellow board members at the Public Welfare Foundation, I want to express our disagreement with the many mischaracterizations about the work of the foundation made in Pablo Eisenberg’s column (“A Veteran Foundation Board Member’s Advice on Grant Making,” Opinion, February 1). We wish to set the record straight.  

The Board of Directors of the Public Welfare Foundation is proud of our mission to support efforts to ensure fundamental rights and opportunities for people in need.

Consistent with this mission and our historical commitment to social justice, we have chosen to address some of the toughest challenges facing our country today, including the mass incarceration of adults and youths, which disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color; the rights of low-wage workers to fair pay and safe and healthy working conditions; and the stark lack of access to justice for low-income people as they try to meet their basic needs, such as shelter, health, and personal safety.

These issues impact the most basic of human rights, and they are also issues that have traditionally been underfunded.

We believe that addressing these thorny challenges in thoughtful, considered ways can positively affect the lives of those we seek to help. To inform our work, we consult widely with advocates, community-based groups and other experts, and we welcome and receive many good ideas and new opportunities to support that can advance our goals.

We wholeheartedly stand behind our grantees, who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of people in communities across the country.

Our grantees take risks every day and tackle difficult problems using a variety of approaches—policy advocacy, organizing, litigation, research and more—to succeed in moving the needle on often intractable issues.

Our portfolio is diverse, and our grant sizes vary greatly. We continue to make trailblazing, first-of-their-kind grants to start-up organizations as well as to support more proven leaders in the field. And we pay special attention to our responsibility to our own community in Washington.

Tom Scanlon, to whom Mr. Eisenberg refers in his opinion column, is a past board member and past board chair of the Public Welfare Foundation.

Mr. Scanlon left the board in October 2012 after 40 years of dedicated service to the foundation. His comments about approaches to philanthropy, to which Mr. Eisenberg also refers, have been fully shared and vetted by the Public Welfare Foundation’s board over the years. While his comments do not provide a full picture of the foundation’s work, Mr. Scanlon is, of course, entitled to his perspectives.

Finally, the board does not share Mr. Eisenberg’s negative comments about Deborah Leff. In fact, when Mr. Eisenberg wrote an earlier, critical opinion column in 2007, the board wrote a letter in strong support of Ms. Leff. She served the foundation with distinction, as did Larry Kressley, her predecessor, and as does our current leader, Mary McClymont.

Lydia Micheaux Marshall

Board Chair

Public Welfare Foundation