If last week’s news out of Florida is any indication, this summer is going to be a good one for the champions of philanthropic freedom. On Tuesday, Florida's governor signed a law that, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “prohibits Florida government officials from requiring that foundations disclose the race, religion, gender, income level, sexual orientation, or certain other characteristics of their employees and board members, as well as those of their grant recipients.”
But wait, that's not all. “The new law also bars state and local government officials from requiring that private foundations appoint board members based on such characteristics and preventing them from selecting trustees who are family members.”
And finally, “In addition to introducing restrictions on how government officials might regulate foundation governance, the law prohibits governments from forcing foundations to give money to groups and people based on their racial makeup and other characteristics.”
Congratulations are due to the folks at the Alliance for Charitable Reform for pushing this through. It’s been a couple of years since the Florida Minority Community Reinvestment Coalition (FMCRC) put out a report with California activist group The Greenlining Institute, suggesting that the Sunshine state’s foundations were neglecting its black and Hispanic residents.
At least one of the state’s philanthropic leaders was paying attention back then. Ted Granger, the head of United Way of Florida, showed up in early 2009 at a city council meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., to defend Publix Supermarket Charities, the largest foundation in the state. Publix was attacked in the Greenlining report for supposedly giving only 2.81% of its grants in 2006 to “minority-led organizations.” Seeing the precedent of California, Mr. Granger thought it best to be proactive. He offered the city council a list of the programs that Publix Charities support through United Way and concluded, “This reflects an incredible commitment to helping these folks.”
That was more than Al Pina, the head of FMCRC, could take. According to the Florida Times-Union, Mr. Pina flew into a rage, yelling “I’m insulted for these people. This is pathetic.”
Mr. Pina has something of a reputation for theatrics. In 2005, he went on a two-week hunger strike in order to get SunTrust bank to lend more to “underserved communities.” While SunTrust explained that it offered no more money than it had previously committed, Mr. Pina claimed the stunt was a victory. After the city council meeting, Mr. Pina told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that he had received “death threats” as a result of his statements about Florida foundations. No details were offered. Then his Coalition sent out a press release inviting Mr. Granger to come stay in a bad area of Jacksonville with him for a week. “Being that Mr. Granger can not demonstrate to us factually on how United Way is conquering poverty in Florida, I challenge him to join me in living in one of the poorest communities in all of Florida.” Oh and Mr. Pina also announced a public boycott of Publix until the foundation leaders would meet to discuss his concerns.
“Publix can fight all it wants,” Mr. Pina told the Chronicle of Philanthropy last year, “but I can guarantee you, it will come to the table, either kicking and screaming, or in peace.”
Looks like the foundations won this round. But I sense another hunger strike coming on.