The next time you come across a really effective, efficient and innovative charity, what kind of work will it be doing? Here are some possibilities:
- Sending medical teams led by former military doctors into strife-torn areas such as the Burmese jungle and the Afghan desert, where no other medical care is available.
- Returning wolves to parts of their former range in the western United States.
- Converting old school buses to mobile art studios to serve low-income inner-city children.
- Bringing screening and treatment for sickle cell disease to West Africa, where millions suffer needlessly and die too soon.
- Fighting global trafficking in women and children.
- Providing tutors and scholarships to promising students from failing public schools, so those children can attend private academies and go on to top colleges.
My colleagues and I spent most of this year screening thousands of organizations for potential funding by Palisades Hudson Charitable Portfolio, Inc. (PHCP). As many Sentinel readers already know, PHCP allows its donors to direct their support within broad areas of philanthropic interest, such as humanitarian relief, education or human rights, while letting PHCP select the specific organizations that will receive money. Donors also can choose their own charities in a donor-advised option. (For more about PHCP, see “Our New Charitable Fund Family” in the January 2003 issue of Sentinel, available on our web site at sentinel.php.)
We did not want simply to fund charities that have a good story to tell. Our approach was more systematic. First, we established a “priority objective” for each of PHCP’s charitable funds. For example, we chose combating sickle cell as the objective for our Science & Health fund. Once we knew the objective, we screened for charities that address the objective effectively. When we had a list of candidates, we did further screening to see whether the charity appears to operate efficiently, to make good use of donors’ money, and to do so innovatively, so the charities we support ultimately can influence other organizations.
Our efforts yielded 28 promising charities that we included in PHCP’s 2003-2004 Charitable Giving Program, published this summer. These are our current favorites, but inclusion in the program does not mean PHCP will give money to these charities. First, of course, donors have to give money to PHCP. Once we know how much support each PHCP fund has attracted, we will do another round of due diligence on the candidate charities, and any other suitable candidates we identify, before we disburse any money.
Because PHCP is a U.S. public charity, which enables its donors to take the maximum available tax deduction, the organizations it supports must be American-based, though they may operate overseas. Our 28 candidates come from 11 states and the District of Columbia.
With a few exceptions, our process led us to favor small charities with little name recognition. These organizations spend little or no money on professional fund-raising, tend to rely more on volunteer service providers than on paid staff, and are addressing their target problems in creative, promising ways that typically have not been adopted by larger, mainstream charities. Even a modest gift from PHCP can mean a lot to one of these organizations, while the same gift would be lost in the rounding error of a mega-charity’s financial statements. We want our charitable gifts to make a difference.
Here are the priority objectives and candidate charities we selected for each PHCP fund. You can get the full Charitable Giving Program, including a donation form, by calling us at (877) 485-4000, or at index.php?c=charitable.
Human Rights Fund: Our priority is to combat trafficking in women and children. Candidate charities include the American Anti-Slavery Group (Boston, MA), which monitors and publicizes human bondage issues; the MiraMed Institute (Seattle, WA), which organized the first anti-trafficking consortium in the former Soviet Union; Human Rights Watch (New York, NY), the largest U.S.-based human rights organization; and ECPAT USA (New York), which fights child prostitution, child pornography and child trafficking worldwide.
Education Fund: Our priority is to help underprivileged youth successfully enter and complete a four-year college program. Candidates include Operation Jump Start (Long Beach, CA), which provides adult mentors to inner-city youth; Buffalo Prep (Buffalo, NY), which identifies talented minority students and provides scholarships and tutoring to help them enter high-quality private schools and go on to selective colleges; Minds Matter of NYC (New York), which matches struggling students with Manhattan professionals who serve as tutors and mentors; Heads Up (Washington, DC), which uses parents and college students as tutors, mentors and coaches; Harlem Educational Activities Fund (New York), which operates an 11-year program of academic enrichment and personal development; and Helping Teens Succeed (Atlanta, GA), providing high school coaching and enrichment and a four-week summer program to teach reading, writing, math and research skills.
Humanitarian Relief Fund: Our priority is to help displaced children worldwide. Candidate charities include Shelter for Life (Oshkosh, WI), which provides medium- to long-term assistance to refugees displaced locally and across national borders; Refugees International (Washington), which tries to bring attention to unrecognized refugee crises worldwide; Refugee Relief International (Woodside, CA), which sends volunteer doctors, nurses and medics to strife-torn areas without other medical care; Operation USA (Los Angeles, CA), which provides supplies and other assistance to poor communities facing disasters in the United States and abroad; PARSA (Bisbee, AZ), which helps widows and orphans in Afghanistan and Pakistan support themselves; and the American Refugee Committee (Minneapolis, MN), providing health and other services to displaced persons in the Balkans, Africa and Thailand.
Arts & Culture Fund: Our priority is to help underprivileged children participate in the creative and performing arts. Candidates include the Imagine Bus Project (Sausalito, CA), which converts school buses into mobile art studios to serve children in the San Francisco Bay area; Groove With Me (New York), a dance program for girls and young mothers; DrawBridge (San Francisco, CA), providing weekly art groups for homeless children; Inner-City Arts (Los Angeles), providing art programs for children who attend public schools in depressed areas near the city’s downtown core; and Spirit of Newark (Linden, NJ), providing marching band and drum-and-bugle activities for inner-city children.
Wildlife & Environment Fund: Our priority is to conserve critical habitat worldwide in temperate, tropical and marine environments. Candidate charities include the African Wildlife Foundation (Washington), which seeks to preserve species, habitat and compatible local ways of life; the American Land Conservancy (San Francisco), which acquires land to be held in public trust; the Conservation International Foundation (Washington), which seeks to preserve and protect habitat in 25 “hot spots” around the globe; and Defenders of Wildlife (Washington), which focuses on protecting predator species that serve as indicators of an ecosystem’s health, and which has helped reintroduce and monitor wolves in various parts of their historic range.
Science & Health Fund: Our priority is to support screening, treatment and development of new therapies for sickle cell disease where it is prevalent worldwide. Candidate charities include Children’s Hospital Foundation (Philadelphia, PA), which helped establish Africa’s first newborn sickle cell screening program in Ghana; the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (Culver City, CA), which supports research, public education, screening and professional conferences on sickle cell; and the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association (Cleveland, OH), which seeks to ensure the availability and accessibility of sickle cell services.