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Founded in 1976 by an assemblage of “independent nonprofit leaders,” the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) describes itself as an advocacy group that works “to provide nonprofit organizations with essential resources and opportunities to work toward social and economic justice for disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations and communities.” NCRP is not a grant-making entity, but rather, a research organization that conducts its own studies and then disseminates the findings to “funders, policymakers, and nonprofit activists for philanthropic reform.” Its stated goal is to boost “social justice philanthropy” to left-wing groups and causes that, by NCRP's telling, seek to: “help move society toward economic, political and social fairness”; “improve the condition of those who are worse off”; “promote greater access in the economic, social and political arenas for people who are excluded”; and “create a more equitable distribution of power.”
NCRP initially grew out of the self-named “Donee Group” (DG), which was formed in late 1974 to provide ad-hoc consultation services to the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (a.k.a. the Filer Commission), initiated in 1973 by John D. Rockefeller III to study the role of charitable giving in the United States. Based upon its research, DG issued a report describing the United States as “a society in which racial, ethnic, sexual and other forms of discrimination deny many the political, economic and social advantages enjoyed by other Americans.” “To remedy these evils,” said the Donee Group, philanthropy must “live up to the ideal of an innovative fearless agent of social change.” Toward that end, DG urged charities to funnel as much money as possible to entities like the National Welfare Rights Organization and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – groups dedicated to fomenting class- and ethnicity-based grievances that could be exploited, in turn, to spark calls for a wholesale redistribution of wealth and power.
In 1997 NCRP published a widely noted study titled “Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations,” which documented the grant-making activities and strategies of twelve major conservative foundations and concluded that they (and their grantees) “had achieved a respectable and enviable level of effectiveness.” By NCRP's telling, this report “paved the way for the establishment of progressive think tanks such as the Center for American Progress and contributed to the formation of the Democracy Alliance.”
In 2004 NCRP elaborated upon “Moving a Public Policy Agenda” and re-titled it “Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Public Policy.” This updated report asserted that “conservative public policy institutions and their philanthropic supporters have had a tremendous impact on Congress' and the [Bush] administration's penchant for waging war, curtailing civil liberties, and slashing taxes and social spending.”
Two years later, NCRP again gave voice to its contempt for “conservative policy organizations … and their foundation supporters,” accusing them of having “re-energized efforts to enforce backwards-looking social policies, most notably attacks on civil rights, gay and lesbian marriages, and affirmative action.”
Over the years, NCRP has been heavily financed by a host of charitable foundations, including such notables as the American Express Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Arca Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Bauman Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, George Soros's Open Society Institute, the Park Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund II, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
Aaron Dorfman has been NCRP's executive director since 2007. Before joing the Committee, he worked as a community organizer for fifteen years, including five years with the Minneapolis and Miami chapters of ACORN.
NCRP's board chair today is Sherece West, who also serves as president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. The vice chair of NCRP's board is Gara LaMarche, who is also president of the Democracy Alliance. Previously, LaMarche was president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies; vice president and director of U.S. Programs for George Soros's Open Society Institute; and a key staffer at Human Rights Watch, the PEN America Center, and the ACLU.
Also prominent among NCRP's board members are individuals with past and present ties to influential left-wing organizations. Some examples: Vivek Malhotra (Ford Foundation, ACLU); Cynthia Renfro (Marguerite Casey Foundation, Beldon Fund); Bill Dempsey (Change to Win Federation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Service Employees International Union); Cristina Jimenez (United We Dream); Mary Lassen (Center for Community Change); and Molly Schultz Hafid (Funders for Justice). Another NCRP board member is Ruth Messinger, a Democrat who served for twelve years on the New York City Council and eight years as Manhattan borough president.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)