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Aaron Dorfman: Serving the Public Good, not Private Interests

Aaron Dorfman with RespectAbility staff and Fellows in front of the RespectAbility banner

Aaron Dorfman with RespectAbility staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, March 20 – Aaron Dorfman, the President and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), visited RespectAbility to talk about integrity and transparency in philanthropy, its benefits, and how to make it diverse and inclusive. NCRP is a research and advocacy organization that makes sure grantmakers are responsive to the needs of those with less opportunity.

Dorfman speaks and writes on diversity, equity, inclusion philanthropy, accountability in the philanthropic sector and the benefits of advocating for community organizing. He has 15 years of experience as a community organizer, a BA in Political Science from Carleton College, and a MA in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University. He is also a Board Member of The Center for Popular Democracy.

Aaron Dorfman and RespectAbility Fellow Juliet Arcila Rojas in front of the RespectAbility banner

Aaron Dorfman and RespectAbility Fellow Juliet Arcila Rojas

Dorfman spoke to the National Leadership Fellows about what good philanthropy looks like for foundations and philanthropists to best execute their goals. Dorfman stressed the point of intentionally benefiting and empowering underserved communities because many funders have a variety of funding goals but forget the poor. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is essentially a “watchdog… [that holds] up a mirror” to companies to help them see what needs correcting in terms of philanthropic values, effectiveness, and ethics.

What are the standards of values that NCRP expects of organizations?

Making sure the money is going to the proper places. Making sure that the funders are looking at not only the symptoms of problems but also their causes. There also should be a clear understanding about what the organizations are funding and why. With proper values set in place, funders can achieve effectiveness as well.

Foundations contribute to the health of the organizations that are funded. Therefore, the organizations need multi-year, general operating funding instead of pushing for more programs. Funders also must make sure that applicants don’t over ask or over promise on grant applications. Most important of all these, is the ethics of the nonprofit grant seekers, especially accountability and transparency. His suggestions? Disclose freely to the funder if the nonprofit is having financial instability. Keep the budgets honest and come to grips with costs.

Dorfman reminded the Fellows that in each state, the attorney general has the jurisdiction and authority to regulate and monitor foundations—from the salaries of Trustees and staff to conflicts of interest. In addition, the IRS requires that each foundation distribute five percent of its assets in grants and loans each year, yet the NCRP recommends that foundations give six percent annually.

“We believe philanthropy at its best serves the public good, not private interests…and strengthens democracy by responding to the needs of those with the least wealth and opportunity,” Dorfman added.

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RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. This spring, 14 Fellows had the opportunity to learn from a variety of guest speakers. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact BenS@RespectAbility.org for more information.

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Meet the Author

Juliet Arcila Rojas
Juliet Arcila Rojas
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