Founded in 1976 by an assemblage of “independent nonprofit leaders,” the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (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.” The Committee’s overriding objective is to boost “social justice philanthropy” to left-wing recipients that, in NCRP’s view, seek to: (a) advance “social and economic justice for disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations and communities,” and (b) “create a more equitable distribution of power” by promoting conditions wherein “a robust public sector is empowered to protect, preserve and extend the commonly held resources and the public interest.” Toward these ends, NCRP administers a “Philanthropy’s Promise” initiative that encourages charities to pledge that 50 percent or more of their grantmaking “explicitly benefits at least one underserved community.”
NCRP initially grew out of the “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 power and resources are grossly misallocated” because “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 DG, philanthropy must “live up to the ideal of an innovative fearless agent of social change.” In pursuit of that objective, 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.
From NCRP’s inception, one of its principal priorities was to advocate for the abolition of tax-deductibility for charitable contributions, largely because the wealthy tended to use such deductions to lighten their tax burden. By NCRP’s telling, “there should be a substantial minimum tax to prevent higher income individuals from avoiding taxation through use of deductions.”
Another early NCRP idea was to force corporations to contribute more money to charities. This could be achieved, said the Committee, by imposing on corporations an additional 2 percent tax that could be “offset wholly or in part through gifts of cash to charity which were made through a private foundation.”
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.” This report, said the Committee, “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 updated the contents of Moving a Public Policy Agenda and re-titled it Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Public Policy. This new 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 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 joining the Committee, he had worked as a community organizer for fifteen years, including five years with the Minneapolis and Miami chapters of ACORN.
A noteworthy past vice chair of NCRP’s board of directors was Gara LaMarche, known for his ties to such entities as the Democracy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, the Center for Popular Democracy, and George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations.
Also prominent among NCRP’s past and present board members are individuals who have had close affiliations with highly 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); Jocelyn Sargent (Open Society Foundations, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Center for Social Inclusion); Taj James (Children’s Defense Fund); Joseph Scantlebury (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); and Lateefah Simon (Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights). 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 grantors courtesy of Influence Watch)
Further Reading: “Our History” (NCRP.org); “About Us” (NCRP.org); “Philanthropy’s Promise” (NCRP.org); “National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy” (Heritage Foundation, 8-19-1978); Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Public Policy (NCRP.org, March 2004); “Aaron Dorfman” (LinkedIn.org); “Our Board” (NCRP.org).