This month, work on public policy that impacts philanthropy has been a large focus across the Council. Most relevant to global grantmakers, I’ve been working with partners on the US Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). There are more than seven bills currently proposed in the House and Senate that will impact FARA, which could have significant impacts on US foundations working with global partners. In partnership with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), we’ve hosted a Hill Briefing and webinar to discuss how this 1938 law can impact US non-profits. I hope you’ll take the time to understand FARA and consider whether it impacts your activities—more information and resources are below.
We are also excited to host our first-ever Public Policy Summit in Philadelphia on April 11-13. I’ll be coordinating and moderating a session on blockchain and cryptocurrency, featuring speakers from our member Global Giving and the New America Foundation. There are lots of fascinating sessions, including discussions about innovative approaches to advocacy at a local level and ways to understand the federal budget. I hope to see you there—please reach out if you’ll be in Philly next month and would like to set up a meeting!
Thank you for all the work you do to advance global philanthropy and grantmaking. If you would like to increase your impact and gain access to the resources and networks required to do so, please consider joining the Council. You can discuss the benefits of Council membership with our membership department by calling 703-879-0645 or emailing the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President, External Relations
FOREIGN AGENT REGISTRATION ACT (FARA) AND FOUNDATIONS
The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) was passed in 1938 in an attempt to better track how foreign governments attempted to impact American laws, public policies, public opinion, especially given concerns about Nazi propaganda at the time. Broadly, FARA requires anyone who acts on behalf of a “foreign principal” to, among other things, influence U.S. policy or public opinion, to register as a foreign agent. Because FARA is most often discussed as related to lobbyists, many believe the statute is relevant only to strict definitions of lobbying under US law. However, the language in FARA is incredibly broad, which opens the door for a wide range of unintended consequences, including impacts on non-profits and foundations.
We know that American foundations and non-profits often work with global partners, and that non-American civil society organizations often have offices in the United States to support their global programming. Under the letter of the law within FARA, any work with a “foreign person or entity” to influence US policy or public opinion warrants a FARA registration.
Several foreign governments, including in Russia, have also used the language of FARA to develop their own Foreign Agent laws that restrict the non-profit sector and international foundations and NGOs from operating locally. This briefing from the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law outlines how FARA has been used globally to draft domestic legislation that shrinks the space for civil society, giving the legislation a “double life abroad.” We are concerned that if FARA gains increased enforcement capabilities without tightening the language, these types of changes may also be used globally to increase restrictions on and enforcement around international partners working with civil society in countries around the world.
COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS FOR GLOBAL DISASTER RESPONSE
Announced at our North American Community Foundations Summit in Mexico City, the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) is joining forces with the C.S. Mott Foundation to support the work of community foundations in the Mexican states most impacted by the 2017 earthquakes. This collaboration will mobilize resources to support long term recovery and to provide opportunities for training in disaster preparedness. Nearly $500,000 has been committed to date, and several US community foundations, including Silicon Valley and El Paso, have recently joined the effort. Read more on IAF’s blog.
This recent article by the Hilton Foundation also makes the case for working via community foundations in disaster response.
NORTH AMERICAN COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS SUMMIT REFLECTIONS
Several of our scholarship winners have shared their reflections from NACF on our blog—read how community foundations in Florida, Colorado, and Ohio benefited from joining 200 peer community foundations from Canada, Mexico and across the US to discuss how to “leave no one behind” in our communities. A few highlights:
“I left the Summit appreciative for the opportunity and pondering these questions as we move forward: Why do we think of ourselves as charities and nonprofits when the unique structure of a community foundation has potential to be so much more? Why not think of ourselves as “community investors?” How can we leverage partnerships within our communities to have the greatest impact?”
“For community foundations that have historically relied on one of the four overarching traditional service models (donor-focused, grant-focused, fiscal agent, or community convener/catalyst), viewing all foundation activities instead through the lens of furthering dignity constitutes a tectonic shift, but the SDGs can serve as an effective and efficient roadmap for achieving this.”
GLOBAL PHILANTHROPY & DEVELOPMENT NEWS
- Gates’ First-Ever Global Gender Strategy—The Gates Foundation announced its new (and first-ever) gender equality strategy, committing $170 million over four years towards women’s economic empowerment globally. Via Devex
- Reducing Infant Mortality in Mali—A new study shows that a program led by public health group Muso outside Bamako reduced child mortality from 1 in 7 children in 2008 to 1 in 142 (lowest rate in Africa and same as the U.S.) by 2015. Notably, this work was supported by $7 million in unrestricted grants from Big Bang Philanthropy. Via Forbes
- Dropbox Foundation Launched—the newly launched Dropbox Foundation will support human rights through unrestricted grants using an initial $20 million endowment. Via PND
- China Announces New Development Agency—experts are excited about the potential impact a Chinese foreign aid agency could have for global development but highlight what to watch as plans unfold. Via Overseas Development Initiative
- EFC and DAFNE on Enlarging Space for Euro Philanthropy—new research evaluates the challenges and opportunities in regulatory framework for philanthropy in Europe, highlighting the lack of a single market for philanthropy across Europe. Via WINGS
Grantmaking Innovation: Using A Competition Model To Fund Bold Ideas | March 29 | WEBINAR
Prizes, challenges, and competitions can bring new awareness to critical issues, help grantmakers reach beyond their existing networks, and connect participants with new resources. But they are not easy to do well. Join a discussion between two grantmakers who’ve deployed a model based on compassionate competition: MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change and Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Compassionate Shark Tank.
Public Policy Summit | April 11-13, 2018 | Philadelphia, PA
The Council’s inaugural Public Policy Summit promises to engage foundation leaders, policy experts, and media representatives in important conversations around the policy issues that are critical to ensuring philanthropy flourishes. Political strategist and television commentator Angela Rye has been confirmed as the Opening Plenary keynote speaker. Register now!