Of the 3-4 national papers I scan in the morning it was the LA Times that provided the following story about the Georgia Community Foundation that made a contribution to a white nationalist organization. As almost anyone in philanthropy knows, community foundations are the community pillars responsible for distributing earnings from their endowment to make a difference in their community.
Community foundations also have a unique position to accept donors' restricted gifts as a part of their portfolio and distribute earnings from these funds as the donor directs. Now today's conversation could ponder what type of policies would need to be in place to ensure that the Foundation avoids accepting restricted gifts that compete with its values (rarely hate-focused) and that would be a good conversation but for the moment I would like to raise perhaps an easier topic to address: the role of a nonprofit's volunteer board members, or at least the board chair, when "bad" press arrives.
If you have read any of my previous blogs, you know I believe that the board, as a nonprofit's owner, plays an important role in representing the organization publicly. This is not a however a common practice but one I believe would have positive results for the organization and its doors. In the case of the following story, I would have preferred to see the Board Chair or anther board member tell the story about the Foundation, it's values and what happened in what has a negative appearance for the Foundation. Understand, I would encourage the foundation to revisit its values and policies toward avoiding situations like this in the future but more importantly, the practice of engaging the board in telling the Foundation's story to the public should also be revisited. At minimum, the Exec is "paid" to tell the story, by the board "owns" the story.