Abby Levine of Alliance for Justice's Bolder Advocacy initiative recently visited Pittsburgh for a GWP workshop, joined by Carolyn Duronio, a partner at Reed Smith LLP and a recognized national expert regarding exempt organizations. Both speakers emphasized that federal and state regulations governing private foundations are complex and not always clear; but that there is still much private foundations can do to support systems change and advocacy efforts by charitable groups.
This summer, 42 recent high-school graduates participated in The Heinz Endowments' Summer Youth Philanthropy internship program, and another 10 took part in a similar program at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. In addition to their grantmaking experience, with training from Saturday Light Brigade the students conceived and produced short radio features covering a wide range of community issues. Listen here and here to hear their perspectives on topics ranging from misperceptions about living in public housing; redevelopment in East Liberty; challenges faced by LGBT people in rural areas; and "Mining for the Truth," which explores the relationship of coal, the economy and the environment.
Nearly one-half of Americans will confront some degree of mental illness during their lifetimes - so virtually everyone can think of a family member, friend or co-worker who contends with a condition like depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD or addiction. Despite its prevalence, mental health issues remain difficult to acknowledge. Shame and fear of stigma continue to prevent many people from seeking help - as if their struggles are due to personal failings instead of medical disorders.
The Staunton Farm Foundation works to counter stigma by helping the public understand mental illness as a common, treatable disease. In fall of 2013, the Foundation awarded a grant to the Creative Nonfiction Foundation to support a writing workshop for people with mental-health disorders, taught by noted author and editor Lee Gutkind. Ten of the participants have courageously contributed their stories to a new collection entitled Writing Away the Stigma. As the Foundation's executive director Joni Schwager notes, "People need to come forward and share their stories. When they do, we recognize ourselves in them, and we can identify and better understand the ways that mental illness affects our lives."
In early June, Charity Navigator shared findings from its tenth analysis of nonprofits in the 30 largest markets in the U.S. This year's study revealed that regional factors, such as the cost of living, affects how the public charities in each city raise funds and manage their costs. Pittsburgh ranked fifth out of the top 30 markets when the study's measures of financial strength, accountability and transparency were combined. Based on data from the region's largest 50 charities, Pittsburgh nonprofits held significantly higher assets than the national average, and also reported somewhat higher levels of revenue and contributions. Less good news: expenses for Pittsburgh nonprofits were higher than the national averages.
Many nonprofits contract with government agencies to provide services, but they are struggling to fulfill this role. According to the National Study of Nonprofit-Government Contracts and Grants 2013 (just released by The Urban Institute), revenue from federal agencies declined in 2012 for almost half of those organizations. And, one in five of those nonprofits reported an uptick in problems with government contracting compared to prior years. Based on state-by-state profiles and rankings, Pennsylvania was fourth out of 50 states in the percentage of nonprofits reporting late government payments - increasing reliance on grants and private contributions as well as use of reserve funds or credit lines.
National Council of Nonprofits recently released another new report entitled Toward Common Sense Contracting: What Taxpayers Deserve. It documents similar problems and calls for changes that will help nonprofits deliver value for taxpayers' dollars. In its proposed solutions, NCN points out the implications of the new OMB Uniform Guidance, which goes into effect in late 2014 and will affect how local, state, and federal governments pay nonprofits for indirect costs.