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October 16, 2013 / Christian Clansky

Funders speak up about the shutdown

SHUTDOWN | In 1993, Aerosmith released a song that perfectly describes our current situation – Livin’ on the Edge. We’re less than a day away from the United States losing its borrowing authority. CNN has a useful rundown of what has happened in the last 24 hours and what could happen today as we stare down a possible default. (CNN, 10/16)

Not surprisingly, the news is dominated by shutdown-related stories – all of which affect us as Americans, most of which affect our region, and many of which come directly from the social sector. Here goes…

– The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region is calling on donors who usually give at the end of the year to do so now. They describe the urgency (CFNCR, 10/15):

While it is true that congress agreed to provide back pay for those government workers not currently receiving pay, that doesn’t extend to the many companies that provide contract services to government agencies through contract employees. That doesn’t extend to the local tourism-related industries and their employees. That doesn’t extend to employees of nonprofit organizations that provide critical services in our region who have been furloughed due to the lack of funding of federal contracts. The damage has already been done.

– The United Way for the National Capital Area has created an emergency assistance fund to provide gap funding for local nonprofits. To launch the fund, the United Way pledged $100,000, which was immediately matched by Capital One. The fund will initially provide food assistance, but will expand its scope as contributions come in. Rosie Allen-Herring, United Way president & CEO, says:

By first providing additional food resources, we know we will be filling a critical basic need and quickly, and as the fund contributions increase, we will expand efforts beyond food assistance to include funding agencies that provide short term financial assistance with rent/mortgage payments and overdue utility bills.

Carol Thompson Cole, president and CEO of Venture Philanthropy Partners and a WRAG board member, was recently at the White House with the G8 Impact Investing Task Force. She juxtaposes her excitement about international innovation in bringing sustainable capital to nonprofits with the harm that our shutdown is causing to our region’s youth. (VPP, 10/16)

– If you missed it yesterday, WRAG’s president, Tamara Copeland, wrote about how philanthropy can’t replace the government when it comes to funding nonprofits. (Daily, 10/16)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation, wrote an excellent piece about why philanthropy must help fix our broken democracy (Chronicle, 10/15):

Why should we in philanthropy get involved? Because it is in our interest.

To do our best work, philanthropy needs both a healthy public sphere and sound public policy. We seek solutions to complex issues like climate change, criminal justice, health, and human rights. For all of them, effective public policy is critical. A range of options needs to be widely aired and analyzed. Then credible proposals must be translated into sound public policy that will further the common good.

NONPROFITS | Bread for the City CEO George Jones sent out a community letter that gives a good perspective on how the shutdown is affecting both our low-income residents and our nonprofits.

– Unemployment claims in the District, Maryland, and Virginia have “exploded.” In the first ten days of this month, for example, Maryland received six times as many claims as it usually does in a year. (WaPo, 10/16)

– Meanwhile, some local furloughed workers are running out of money to pay their bills. As the Post points out, government jobs have traditionally offered a stable way out of poverty for low-income individuals. At the moment, the opposite has become true. (WaPo, 10/16)

REGION | Leaders from the District and Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties will meet today to discuss how the shutdown is affecting our region. (WaPo, 10/16)

As I’m getting ready to publish, the headlines suggest that a resolution to the shutdown is imminent. One would hope that our government wouldn’t allow a default to happen, but that would also require some faith in our leaders. And, well, HA! Still, fingers crossed.

Today’s Daily is pretty heavy, so let me lighten the mood with a cute baby having a priceless reaction to a toy. Also, this is what I’d imagine working on the Hill is like these days. 


  1. James Beck / Oct 16 2013 1:02 pm

    It would be useful to understand the United Way’s process and rationale for identifying the 4 organizations it has determined will receive these funds, and its process for expanding its scope as contributions come in.

    • Christian Clansky / Oct 16 2013 2:29 pm

      Thanks for the comment, James. At the moment, I don’t have any information beyond the announcement. I would suggest keeping an eye on the United Way’s website. If we get more info on the fund, I’ll be sure to post it here.

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