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From: Stacy Palmer

Subject: $100M to Curb Polarization; Soros Fund Shifts Focus; Giving to India


Good morning.

In a week in which the news of Bill and Melinda Gates’s divorce was nearly all that the national news media could talk about, other insights might have gotten lost. But there is a lot more happening in philanthropy to catch up on, including a look at how foundations are emerging after a string of cascading crises.

For the special report in our May issue, Jenn Hoos Rothberg, head of the Einhorn Collaborative, told our colleague Alex Daniels that the longest-lasting lesson from Covid might be that the lockdowns forced us to think about who we have held close and those whose company we miss.

That focus on relationships is what’s driving a new collaborative that Einhorn is guiding. It’s working with other grant makers to channel $100 million into efforts that help people who are dug in on opposite sides of an issue to see the humanity in their counterparts. “Living in a multiethnic, multiracial democracy,” she says, “it is absolutely essential that we have relationships with the people who are not like us, too.”

You can find the entire special report — and the rest of the new issue online.

Here’s What Else You Need to Know

George Soros’s Open Society Foundations is going back to its roots and focusing more on fighting human-rights abuses around the world through a network of local offices that are close to the problems. Spending on grants for the international work will rise by about $75 nillion a year, Alex Daniels reports. But to shift more money to overseas work, the funds are laying off about 200 employees. Soros will also devote more funds to so-called big bets following the lead of other foundation efforts, such as MacArthur’s 100&Change, which last month awarded $100 million to a nonprofit that fights homelessness.

The catastrophic wave of Covid-19 in India has prompted donors to send millions of dollars to the country. Money is coming from wealthy individuals such as technology leader Vinod Khosla, who awarded $10 million, and from grant makers like the Rockefeller Foundation. Smaller donors are giving, too. Texas philanthropists Raj and Aradhana Asava last week offered to match up to $25,000 in donations to support pandemic relief in their native India. So far, the couple, who have long given to programs in India but more recently emphasized the need to support U.S. food banks, have raised about $10,000. Raj Asava says the couple is “very confident we will blow past the goal.”

Now that the crises of 2020 have prompted an influx of new donors, charities are experimenting with the best ways to keep them giving again and again. That is a big challenge because although the overall number of donors in the United States grew by 7.3 percent in 2020, donor retention rates have been steadily declining, writes Eden Stiffman. Among the approaches: The nonprofit First Book doubled the number of donors who give monthly. And the fundraising arm of the Centers for Disease Control, which attracted 15,000 new donors last year and tens of thousands of new social-media supporters, is investing in new technology and hiring additional fundraising staff members and consultants to make the most of the moment. Says Laura Croft, the organization’s vice president of advancement. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we’ve had this type of awareness.”

Donors can bring about a revolution in gender and race diversity on boards, just as investors have done at private companies, say authors of a new study. In an opinion essay based on their study of college and hospital trustees, Carolyn T. Adams and Vikki Kramer, say that donors should push for better balances in the boardroom because it leads to more effective governance. Part of the solution, they say, is to stop thinking about trustee slots as a perk for people who give large sums of money and find another way for those donors to serve the institution. “Assigning fundraising to a separate board is preferable to reducing financial requirements for trustees who are women and people of color,” they write.

Also worth reading this weekend: We last saw Bill and Melinda Gates at a gathering the foundation held to share information about its work to spark more donations from everyday donors, an important part of its philanthropy that often gets less attention than the Giving Pledge effort to persuade billionaires to give big.

The news of their divorce also prompted us to take another look at Stacy’s interview with Melinda French Gates just as she was releasing her 2019 book The Moment of Lift. When asked what advice she had for her daughters on philanthropic decision making, she said: “Listening is one of the most important parts of our job. It’s the only way to truly understand people’s lives — to learn who they are, what they want, what they believe, and what barriers are standing in their way. The day we stop listening to people and trying our best to understand their context, their values, and their needs — that’s the day we stop being able to do anything to make the world better.”

That’s good advice for everyone working to change the world. We hope you have a peaceful weekend.

Stacy Palmer and Dan Parks

More News, Advice, and Opinion
Here’s what else you’ll want to read as you catch up this weekend:

What We’re Reading Elsewhere

Here are some of the articles that attracted our attention in the past week. We provide these summaries every day in our free Philanthropy Today newsletter. (Sign up now.)

The Biden administration’s proposed tax hikes would give the wealthy more incentive to make charitable donations, a Biden aide told nonprofit leaders last week. Biden’s plan would nearly double the capital-gains tax rate for those who earn more than $1 million annually and would likely send those taxpayers looking for more deductions. The aide’s admission was implicit acknowledgment that the wealthy will look for ways around the tax hike. Some organizations are already pointing out to potential donors the increased value of gifts under the proposal, and one scholar said the enhanced tax break could give wealthy donors an excuse to give more to charities and leave less for their heirs. (New York Times)

Historically black colleges are smashing fundraising records. North Carolina A&T State University has raised $88 million since the fiscal year began, six times its typical annual haul. More than half of that sum, $45 million, came from MacKenzie Scott, but alumni and corporate donations were up as well. Said Harry Williams, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund: “We have never, ever seen anything like this for HBCU.” (WUNC)

Muslim giving in the United States has shifted focus in the decades since the 9/11 attacks from international relief to civil rights and social justice. Muslim-led organizations in the United States raise the bulk of their budgets in the three months before, during, and after Ramadan, which this year runs from April 12 to May 12. Although international relief still gets the biggest share of donations from Muslims, the recent focus on racial justice has accelerated a trend that began after the 9/11 terror attacks, when some large international Muslim charities shut down amid suspicion of funding terrorism. Muslims “tend to focus on funding nonprofits dedicated to basic needs such as food banks, health-care clinics, and social-service organizations helping with adoption or mental health,” and they give about as often to causes outside the Muslim community as to causes within it. (Religion News Service)

Melinda French Gates could emerge from her divorce from her husband, Bill Gates, as a more influential philanthropist, using her own considerable fortune to supercharge causes she cares about. She will be one of the richest women in the world, already involved in efforts to cultivate women leaders in various fields. French Gates has also become a loud voice against gender disparities made worse by the pandemic, such as collapsing child-care and long-term-care systems that leave women largely responsible for the well-being of young and elderly loved ones. It’s not clear how much money she will have, but the Gateses have already begun to split a fortune pegged by Bloomberg at $145 billion. Bill Gates recently transferred stock worth almost $2.4 billion to Melinda French Gates. Other holdings that could be divided include vast farmland acreage and stocks in clean-energy startups, a distiller, and hospitality companies, among others. (Washington Post, Bloomberg, and the Wall Street Journal — subscription)

Wayne LaPierre has so mismanaged the National Rifle Association that he and his team should be thrown out if the organization is allowed bankruptcy protection, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge in Texas Monday. The lawyer said CEO LaPierre has not been held accountable for lavish and improper spending, obscured via creative accounting. Her arguments boost a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking to dissolve the organization. James is now asking the judge to kick the NRA out of bankruptcy protection or appoint an independent trustee to oversee its reorganization. A lawyer for the group said allegations of wrongdoing are overblown, and the organization says it needs LaPierre’s fundraising prowess. The bankruptcy judge, who plans to rule early next week, could appoint an independent trustee or keep current management in place and allow the NRA to reorganize in Texas. (Wall Street Journal — subscription)

A group of Asian American business leaders has launched a $250 million effort to counter Asian American discrimination and to educate the public and policymakers about Asian Americans’ contributions to U.S. history and culture. The Asian American Foundation is the largest philanthropic effort on behalf of Asian Americans, who receive less than 1 percent of charitable funding. It is backed by leaders in finance, tech, journalism, consumer goods, and sports, and it has received pledges from major companies, including Walmart and Bank of America. The foundation seeks to blunt the stereotype of the model minority by elucidating the wide variations in income and viewpoints among Asian Americans, and it is working on education projects about their experiences. (New York Times)

New Grant Opportunities

Your Chronicle subscription includes free access to GrantStation’s database of grant opportunities. Among the latest listings:

  • Community organizing. The Needmor Fund supports community organizing in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It provides grants to groups that organize primarily low- and moderate-income people; focus on race, economic justice, and equality; are democratically run and have dues-paying members; and engage in strategic planning. The application process will be open through June 30.
  • Telemedicine and Distance Learning. The Department of Agriculture provides grants to groups that provide education or health care in rural areas through telecommunications. It supports groups that use telecommunications-enabled information, audio and video equipment, and related advanced technologies for students, teachers, medical professionals, and rural residents. These grants are intended to increase rural access to education, training, and health care resources that are otherwise unavailable or limited in scope. The application deadline is June 4.
Stacy Palmer has served as a top editor since the Chronicle of Philanthropy was founded in 1988 and has overseen the development of its website, She plays a hands-on role in many Chronicle services, such as its Philanthropy Today daily newsletter and its webinar series offering professional development for people involved in fundraising, grant seeking, advocacy, marketing and social media.
Dan joined the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2014. He previously was managing editor of Bloomberg Government. He also worked as a reporter and editor at Congressional Quarterly.