Letter to the editor – Funders hard-working, dedicated

To the editor,

While I appreciate the intent of your article “Funders keep too much” [Philanthropy Journal, 9/10/03], I really take issue with the sweeping generalizations you make about foundations.

Speaking on behalf of small, private foundations — small in both asset size and in staff — which make up the majority of foundations in this country, let me say that your description of luxurious offices and showers of cash are laughable at best, and offensive to me and the many executive directors who take the work we do very seriously.

My office is in my basement of my home – for which I do not take a tax deduction — with a view of a bug- and leaf-filled window well. (I’ve been meaning to get to that.)

I earn less money running a foundation than most of the executive secretaries I know.

I spend countless hours consulting with nonprofit organizations, other foundation staff and executives, boards of directors and volunteers, encouraging and promoting strategic philanthropy, “best practices” and charitable giving.

I serve on a number of boards, including the Governor’s Commission on Community and National Service, the Colorado Association of Funders, and the Boulder County Grantmakers Forum — for which I receive no compensation.

And I am not unique or alone in my commitments.

I don’t disagree that there are a “few bad apples” out there. The Philanthropy Journal is one of many publications that has raised awareness about abuses in the sector, and well-publicized cases of excessive compensation and other such offenses do exist.

However, I think it’s highly unfair to characterize the entire philanthropic sector in that manner and to continue to perpetuate a false impression of foundations as hotbeds of mismanagement, excessive expenditures and lack of commitment to the public trust.

Why don’t you and your colleagues at Philanthropy Journal, or The Chronicle of Philanthropy or the New York Times, do a little “research” on foundations that are fulfilling their philanthropic missions, and doing so in a reasonable and committed manner, and paint a more realistic picture of what’s happening in the sector — a picture of hardworking, dedicated individuals who are making a difference in their communities? There are 70,000 foundations in the U.S., and I’ll venture a guess that well over 60,000 are doing just that.

They shouldn’t be too hard to find.

AnneMarie Kemp, executive director, Greenlee Family Foundation, Boulder, Colo.

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