Foundations Shrugged

Posted by Ruth Loess on August 26, 2016

Ruth Loess (her pen name) is our newest blog contributor, and brings something different to our usual offerings … satire. Ruth has over 30 years in the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds, and starting today, she’ll be challenging some sacred cows of the field, as well as stating the obvious, yet funny flaws of a system we live and work in. Like all the other Shelterforce bloggers we so deeply value and appreciate, Ruth’s opinions are all her own. We hope you enjoy her writing. — Editors

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Foundation leaders from across the country issued a collective shrug last week in response to claims of improprieties at the Clinton Foundation. The allegations stem from release of State Department emails that, according to the Trump campaign, seemingly indicate that foundation officials used their connection to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to procure favors for donors.

The special treatment afforded these individuals is said to have included responding to email messages in a timely manner, facilitating introductions beyond those generally associated with elite DC cocktail parties and seeking employment for friends (and, occasionally, ne’er-do-well relatives) associated with the Clinton Foundation.  

Ethics experts were quick to point out that there is some ambiguity as to who should be held accountable for any possible wrong doing: the staff of the Clinton Foundation for asking or employees of the State Department for responding?

The CEO and President of one large community-based foundation commented that donors are known to ask for all kinds of favors. This person cited one specific example stating, “If we had a dollar for every time a conservative donor asked us not to fund Planned Parenthood, we could double our assets.” Coincidentally, this individual oversees an endowment that has increased in value from $150 million to $300 million over the past ten years.

State Department officials, on the other hand, justified their actions by stating that the responses received by persons associated with the Clinton Foundation are typical of those that anyone might receive when reaching out to a large governmental bureaucracy.

According to another State Department source (who wished to remain anonymous), “It doesn’t matter who contacts us, our levels of efficiency and responsiveness are the same and I would compare them to any department within the U.S. government...except for when someone in Congress gets a call from the NRA. They respond crazy fast to them because they have a direct line staffed 24/7 to answer those calls.”

It remains to be seen how the reported transgressions will be viewed by the general public (a small percentage of which might actually vote in the upcoming presidential election).

A recent person-on-the-street survey revealed only mild concerns given that the source of the allegations was the Trump campaign. When reminded that Hillary Clinton was the target of the complaints, a majority of respondents replied by saying, “same sh-t [sic], different day.” 

However, one senior citizen who was interviewed did express interest in making a $50 contribution to the Clinton Foundation, provided that they would assist her in resolving a disputed Medicare claim.

(Photo credit: F. Tronchin, via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About the author more »

Blog posts under the name "Ruth Loess" are satirical in nature. Ruth Loess began her career as a social worker. After seeking treatment for several stress-related disorders, she crossed over into the world of philanthropy where she says she can, “still do good in the world, but also sleep at night. After all, no one ever died as a result of a grantmaking emergency.” She has held positions in both private and community foundations, and appreciates the responsibility that comes with giving away other people’s money. Ruth also serves as a consultant in the areas of board governance and staff development. She remains strident in her support of the nonprofit sector and issues of social justice. Her likes include beaches and books (preferably experienced together), authentic people, and good comedy. Her dislikes include philanthropic privilege, helicopter initiatives, and program officers who believe that their appearance on the scene represents the first time intelligent thought has been cast upon a subject. Her goal in life is to instill a bit of humor and humility in the professional realm in which she exists.

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