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Tough Times Prompt IL Groups to Stretch Charity Dollars

June 13, 2011

CHICAGO - More than 60 of the nation's charitable foundations are seeking new ways to help Americans who have been left out, economically or politically. They are pledging to focus on more strategic giving, to try to alleviate the causes of such problems as the foreclosure crisis and the growing gap between rich and poor.

They've signed a pledge called "Philanthropy's Promise," vowing to use at least half of their grant money for people who are marginalized by poverty, age or disability, and at least 25 percent for community organizing to address the roots of poverty.

At the Woods Fund, Chicago, Acting President and Program Director Consuealla Brown says they give much more than that to community organizations.

"People who go to work every day, work 40 hours a week, have done everything we've told them to do - get an education, get a job, buy a house - are still struggling."

Brown says community organizers help those who are marginalized to have a voice at the tables of power. Their voices, she warns, often get drowned out by paid lobbyists.

People who have been ignored by those in power are losing too many homes and too many jobs, in Illinois and around the nation, Brown adds.

"If we don't begin to address this massive wealth gap and the regulatory issues, it cannot get any better."

She points out that foundations are in no position to fill the role of government. That's why she says promising to fund community organizers helps create a more robust democracy, and that sends a message to policy-makers.

"We are saying to them, 'Hey, you seem to be listening to paid lobbyists and corporate interests, and it has been to the detriment of the people that have built this country.'"

Many foundations say the recession and problems with the stock market have forced them to refocus their giving and to use limited resources more effectively.

Pledge information is available at www.ncrp.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL