A Report on The Conference of the National Council on Philanthropy

Cleveland, Ohio, October 21-23, 1974

The Conference of the National Council on Philanthropy held in Cleveland, Ohio last Fall brought together more than five hundred delegates from all parts of the United States. I and one or two other members of the Agenda Committee on Funding attended the conference and for us it had a very special interest.

I became a member of the Agenda Committee on Funding very recently. This Committee was instrumental in planning and convening the Seminar on Funding held in Toronto’s Westbury Hotel last Spring and has continued as a follow-up Committee to pursue further study into the subject of charitable funding. A report on the Seminar on Funding appears elsewhere in this magazine.

Following as soon as it did upon our own seminar, the points of contrast and the points of similarity between the two conferences came through to us very strongly and we were much encouraged. Indeed, although our activities seemed but a miniature in the context of the Cleveland conference, we realized that we have one major advantage which most of us did not fully appreciate until we went to Ohio. We have on our Committee representatives of both the public and private sectors involved in charitable funding. All levels of government have volunteered cooperation and assistance -federal, provincial and municipal—and the active participation of their representatives has given a wholeness to our approach to this very large and complex subject which was significantly lacking in the United States conference. If at times we are frustrated by the difficulties in understanding the terms of reference of the many government departments and agencies involved, for example, in the health and welfare field alone, we now appreciate that these difficulties reflect the dimension of our study. For how can we satisfy ourselves that the best use is being made of our tax dollar and our charitable dollar without an overview of both public and private philanthropy and some understanding of how they relate to each other? There were few government voices at the Cleveland conference and one came away from it feeling that we had been struggling to solve a puzzle with only half of the pieces.

One thing we did learn from the Cleveland conference was the value of a con­ference at which both donors and donees are represented. Our seminar last Spring was confined to donors, largely because it was desired to avoid the seminar being turned into a forum for private appeals. Assuming that this concern can be eliminated, there are obvious advantages in a dialogue between both groups and it is my hope that our next conference will afford this kind of opportunity.

It is, of course, inevitable that a conference such as the Cleveland one will tend to generality. The specifics with which the various delegates were concerned differed with their individual regions as did their portential sources of funding. For example, a development officer from a hospital in California or Texas or Utah could not learn much about sources of funds for his hospital at a seminar dominated by a spokesman of a New Jersey foundation which restricted its donations to institutions in three or four eastern States. However, in the larger context their problems are our problems and some of the concerns that were being expressed and the solutions considered are appropriate to our situation too.

I gathered that there are more than 50,000 public and private funding sources in the United States and that the number of foundations probably exceeds 30,000. Notwithstanding this, there is a growing gap between the resources available for funding charitable contributions and the financial needs of the organizations which depend on corporations and foundations for assistance. As a result of changes in federal tax laws in the United States coupled with rising inflation major U.S. corporations are re-examining the charities they support and re-evaluating their corporate giving. So stated Leo P. Brennan, Jr., vicechairman of the corporate contributions committee of the Ford Motor Company and president of the National Council on Philanthropy which convened the Cleveland conference.

We heard one estimate that there is a ten billion dollar gap between the amount charitable organizations need and the amount they receive from all sources. One speaker said this donation gap might be diminished if directors of charities paid more attention to management principles. The speaker was Marvin Bower, former chairman of the trustees of the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who said:

“It’s a cop out to think that management techniques just won’t work when you are dealing with charitable organizations. You must have an effective management-oriented board and an effec­tive chief executive officer as well as a good board chairman. These tools can insure that money received is used wisely and without duplication.”
I expect that a great many U.S. charitable organizations will be obliged to pay more attention to the:r management methods if they expect to qualify for grants from the major corporations and foundations in the future.

Is there a moral here for us in Canada? If we follow the U.S. trend the philanthropic pie will continue to shrink in this country too. In fact corporate philanthropy has already begun to show signs of decline. Total corporate contributions dropped from .97 per cent of pre-tax profits in 1965 to .62 per cent in 1971. In absolute terms, the peak was reached in 1967 at 74 million dollars and then declined in 1970 to 68.5 million. At the same time the share of corporate donations allocated to cultural projects increased from 2.4 per cent in 1965 to 5.4 per cent in 1971. In absolute terms, this represents an increase from approximately 1.5 million dollars to 4 million dollars that went to the arts and other cultural programs. If the pie is getting thinner and the slices smaller,Canadian charitable organizations may be well-advised to look to their own stewardship techniques and management methods. It is not enough to do good; you must do it efficiently.

Greater emphasis is being placed on evaluation. Many U.S. foundations require all grant applicants to submit a statement describing their proposed method of evaluation and, in the event of a grant, to submit periodic reports of evalua­tion results. Evaluation is described as the process by which the applicant attempts to ascertain the true value of its program. One foundation tells applicants that, except in extraordinary circumstances, every program should have a method of evaluation built into it. The same foundation states unequivocally that no program can be well managed without paying careful attention to evaluation.

The theme of the Cleveland conference was the sharing of responsibility between donors and donees for a more humane, just, stable and productive social order not only in the United States but around the world. The world-wide outreach of American assistance was highlighted at a clinic on International Philanthropy and was stressed again in an address by Ambassador Carol Laise, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who emphasized that no nation can make decisions motivated by domestic concerns alone and unmindful of the impact on others.

And Dr. Cynthia Wedel, National Chairman of Volunteers for the American Red Cross and Associate Director of the Centre for a Voluntary Society, echoed the same sentiment when she drew attention to what she saw as a major change slowly emerging in our world, a shift from competition to cooperation as a fundamental factor in human relationships. Dr. Wedel urged both donors and recipients of philanthropic gifts to move beyond traditional programs. They were no longer adequate in a period of crisis. She said:

“We face an economic crisis which means that our money must be spent carefully. We are in the midst of a real crisis of moral values, in which people are confused, frightened and sometimes paralyzed. If, out of a group such this—the reference here is to the National Council on Philanthropy-some individual or organization would call together representatives of govern­ment, business and the voluntary sector including philanthropic bodies, around a concern for any one of the major issues of the day: how to live in a pluralistic society, how to restore confidence in government and other institutions, how to bridge the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in our own country and around the world, some really creative ideas could be gen­erated. Then if we could build a coalition of the three sectors of society-government, business and the voluntary agencies
-to test the ideas and develop programs to implement them, things could begin to happen. The best resources of all three sectors could be used. The commitment of ordinary citizens through their voluntary groups, and the long experience of many voluntary agencies in dealing with human needs would be an essential component along with the legal and financial powers of the other sectors.

“Just the initiation of such a movement could bring new hope to people who are now discouraged and apathetic. They might begin to see their government as allies, not enemies, and the economic community as one which cares about a great deal more than its balance-sheets. If we want to do it, ways can be worked out for the government to fund programs to be carried out by well-administered voluntary organizations without unnecessary red tape or undue domination. The business community is already discovering in many places that it can exist in more stable communities and attract and keep better employees if it provides money and man-power to voluntary action. The voluntary sector, in such a partnership, can be given the motivation and help to put its own house in order in terms of better planning, man­agement and evaluation.”

If Dr. Wedel’s hypothesis is viable, it seems to me that our Committee is on the right track and headed in the right direction.


FRED HOTSON, Member of the Agenda Committee on Funding




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