- Was established as a project of the Proteus Fund
- Supports groups and causes that seek to “address the problem of special interest influence in our political system.”
Established in 1997 as an initiative of the Proteus Fund, the Piper Fund awards approximately $2 million each year to groups and causes that seek to “address the problem of special interest influence in our political system.” In addition to these monies, Piper also provides its grantees with research reports and technical assistance to buttress their efforts.
Among Piper’s more notable grantees are The American Prospect, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Community Change, Citizen Action, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, Justice at Stake, the National Council for Research on Women, National People’s Action, the PICO National Network, the Proteus Action League, Public Campaign Action Fund, and State Voices.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Piper Fund, click here.
Over the years, Piper has received numerous grants from its so-called “funding partners.” In 2012, for instance, Piper identified the following entities as its funding partners: Anonymous, the Arkay Foundation, the Columbia Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Frances Fund, the Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros Foundation, the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Tides Foundation.
Piper’s funding partners from past years have included also the Arca Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Funding Exchange, the JEHT Foundation, the Jenifer Altman Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Lear Family Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Stern Family Fund, Working Assets, and many more.
The Piper Fund’s senior program officer is Marc Caplan, who earned a JD from Columbia University in 1972, served as executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group from 1974-80, directed Northeast Action from 1992-99, and was the founding director of the LEAP voter-engagement coalition in Connecticut. Caplan began working for the Proteus Fund as a consultant in September 2000 and has been on its staff since 2004.
The Piper Fund’s program officer is Melissa Spatz, who earned a JD from Columbia Law School in 1991; directed two community organizing groups in Chicago; founded the Women & Girls Collective Action Network and the Center for Emerging Leadership; and co-founded the the Chicago Freedom School, the Columbia Journal of Gender & Law, and the Women’s Rights Project at Human Rights Watch. Further, Spatz has led a wide variety of local, state, and national organizing and policy campaigns on such issues as media reform, education, affordable housing, police accountability, and youth rights. As a consultant, she has conducted extensive trainings on community organizing and nonprofit organizational development. Spatz also conducted grant reviews for the Woods Fund of Chicago.
The Piper Fund strongly objected to the January 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which: (a) struck down a ban on corporations and labor unions using money from their general funds to produce and air campaign ads in races for congressional and presidential races, and (b) overturned a prohibition against corporations and unions airing campaign ads during the 30 days immediately preceding a primary or the 60 days preceding a general election. By Piper’s reckoning, the Citizens United decision “undermines 100 years of law that restrained the role of money in the political system and will dramatically alter the playing field for politics in our country.” “This is a moment of historic opportunity,” added Piper, “that requires an unprecedented response … to reclaim democracy from corporate special interests.”