Two New York City-based foundations – the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies – are revving up their nationwide grant-making efforts on behalf of disadvantaged children and youth.
At Clark (assets: $670 million), President Mike Bailin writes in the summer newsletter that “change has become a constant in our lives.” Since 2000, the foundation has shed its other program areas (including child welfare and middle school reform) and worked “to identify, select, and support exemplary youth-serving organizations.” That, Bailin writes, will be Clark’s sole venture “for the foreseeable future.” And while it was once limited to the East Coast, Clark will now consider funding nonprofits around the country.
Joining Clark is Bonnie Kornberg, who will staff a new foundation unit that will search for “grantee candidates.” Interested youth-serving agencies – and who isn’t keen to win perhaps $5 million in grant support over an extended number of years? – need to fill out Clark’s online survey (www.emcf.org/grants/youthorg_survey.htm) to see if they fit the foundation’s threshold requirements. Each month Clark receives about 40 submissions that way. But since its Youth Development Fund began in 2000, only 10 local community- based organizations have made the grade. In addition, five national groups are grantees. One of them is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with decades-long ties to the Clark family and the foundation. The BGCA is implementing Project Learn, an after-school strategy in 100 clubs, and expects to expand the effort to another 400 sites in the next few years.
Clark, which makes grants totaling about $25 million per year, is also “considering a pilot effort with one or two” second-chance alternative schools (private or public) for older youth who “might otherwise drop out,” its newsletter says.
Clark’s approach is no “here’s-a-puny grant, see-you-later” process. Grantees – such as MY TURN (Massachusetts Youth Teenage Unemployment Redirection Network) in Brockton, Mass., which in March was awarded $1.8 million over 38 months – have to meet what Clark calls its “demanding standards.”
Clark spokesman Bruce Trachtenberg says intense due diligence begins only after the foundation determines that a youth-serving agency is capable of increasing the number of youth served, generating more revenue and making progress in demonstrating the effectiveness of its program. The first step, then, is the planning phase, recently entered (with a $250,000 grant) by Southend Community Services in Hartford, Conn., directed by Bob Rath.
MY TURN, founded in 1984 by Executive Director Barbara Duffy, has in the past received most of its funding through the federal Workforce Investment Act. Most of the 14- to 21-year-olds it serves are either not college-bound or are first-generation college aspirants. MY TURN’s delivery model is consistent with that of other high-performing service providers. Each youth worker (hampered at MY TURN by bureaucratic job titles) is assigned to 30 to 50 teens. The staff of 40 operates in 19 school-linked sites in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
With a $250,000 planning grant from Clark in 2003, MY TURN began to develop a detailed business plan with the Boston-based consulting outfit the Bridgespan Group, co-founded by Jeff Bardach and Paul Carttar. Carttar is now the chief operating officer at Kansas City’s Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Craig Kennedy, MY TURN’s vice president for operations, says the business plan development process with Bridgespan was “fantastic.”
Bridgespan’s compensation from the Clark Foundation qualifies as fantastic, too. Clark has given Bridgespan $6.5 million since 2000 to help Clark’s grantees. Now, says Kennedy, MY TURN is ready to strengthen its programs and expand to other states.
In the near future, Clark will post on its website annual progress reports on its grantees, a move certain to rattle even the most conscientious youth service leader. Now others can compare the accuracy of activity reports that are aimed at currying favor with funders with the service delivery reality in the targeted neighborhoods.
Bailin, who once headed Public/Private Ventures, well knows that the crucial unanswered question in all this is not whether vital, well-led youth agencies can grow, but “where the future funding will come from to help our grantees sustain the larger organizations we’re helping them build.” Regardless of November election results, one strategy seems unlikely: tapping the national treasury. The Bush tax cuts and budget deficits have pre-empted that.
Contact: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, (212)
Since 2003, when the Atlantic Philanthropies (assets: $3.9 billion) – once hidden away in Bermuda – revamped its grant-making priorities, the race has been on to win a berth onboard its new program for disadvantaged children and youth. Among the youth field’s major research and development intermediaries, no trophy was more prized. After all, Atlantic, endowed by Charles F. Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shops, expects to spend about $72 million annually beginning in 2005, and to stop spending only when Feeney’s fortune is gone in 10 to 12 years. Hired in February 2004 to captain the effort is organizational development expert Charles Roussel. Since then, Roussel has navigated through the buccaneer-infested shoals and eddies of national kids’ policy freebooters, who are staked out for another treasure trove.
Might it be a tip of the duty-free hat to Blackbeard, the notorious North Carolina pirate hunted down by the British in 1718, that Atlantic has chosen the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy to pilot its new venture to the open seas? In July, Atlantic announced a $522,900 grant over six months to the institute, a part of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
At first light, the grantees’ profile looked like one of those education reform privateers that are ever ready to pounce on the youth development field when an adequate treasure chest is to be had. But Roussel teamed the institute, founded by former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr., with the D.C.-based Forum for Youth Investment (FYI), directed by Karen Pittman. The institute says its mission is to “engage governors and other leaders in strategic efforts to advance and sustain state-level education reform.” Since 2002, Judith Rizzo has been executive director. She’s a former junior high school teacher in Revere, Mass., and deputy school superintendent in Tacoma, Wash., and New York City. Rizzo was unavailable for comment on the new grant, which the institute says “will make recommendations for targeted investments in promising efforts to strengthen youth development programs in pilot states and cities across the nation.”
Rizzo’s deputy, Michael Gilligan, acknowledges that the Hunt Institute has been only “tangentially” connected to youth work. But FYI’s Pittman, a high-profile fixture in national youth development circles, describes the Atlantic-brokered collaboration as “very intentional” to keep youth work on the bridge, not down in the galleys – which most education experts think is the only suitable duty station for youth workers.
Pittman’s FYI is, in its own words, “dedicated to helping … make sure all young people are ready by 21 – ready for work, college and life.” Its priority in its planning assignment for Atlantic is examining the needs of 8- to 16-year-olds, especially during their out-of-school time, and identifying promising opportunities for them. FYI will link with other national kids’ policy shops, such as Child Trends, directed by Kristen Moore, the Finance Project, run by Cheryl Hayes, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, led by Frank Farrow – all, like FYI, based in Washington.
At its core, though, Hunt and FYI are doing what Pittman calls “the exploration work,” pulling data together, etc. “We’re not doing the selection” of future Atlantic grantees. Gilligan says the Hunt Institute will search for “linchpin people” who are “agents of change.”
Roussel will say only that Atlantic’s grant making will consist of “a few this year” and “more next year” – after the Hunt/FYI work, vetted by his staff and incorporated into a cogent strategy, goes to Atlantic’s trustees in March for approval.
It is hoped that after March, Atlantic won’t get lost in the Bermuda Triangle of education reform. That is a fate for youth services akin to walking the plank for Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard).
Contact: Atlantic Philanthropies (212) 916-7300, www.atlanticphilanthropies.org; Forum for Youth Investment (202) 207-3333,www.forumforyouthinvestment.org; James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy (919)843-0182, www.hunt-institute.org.
Mediascope Goes Dark
“After much soul searching,” writes Marcy Kelly, Mediascope founder and board chairwoman, the Hollywood-based watchdog outfit has put its work “on hiatus.” It was launched in 1992 with a $675,000 grant from the Carnegie Corp. and $300,000 from The California Wellness Foundation to address the issue of television and movie violence and its effect on child viewers.
Even in its mid-90s salad days when it had a staff of 16, Mediascope hardly had Hollywood under a microscope. But vertical integration and corporate consolidations in the entertainment industry, says Kelly, have weakened whatever leverage Mediascope and its few like-minded allies have on how youth social issues such as violence, drug abuse and safe sexual behavior are portrayed on screen.
“I’m not sure I agree with that” analysis, says Brian Dyak, CEO of the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), with a staff of 12 and offices in Reston, Va., and Hollywood. EIC’s approach to promoting what Dyak calls “an accurate depiction” of on-screen youth behavior centers on the fawning recognition of its Hollywood producers, directors and actors. EIC has raised millions from federal agencies, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, for its posh annual PRISM Awards dinner, where Hollywood and Washington pat each other on the back.
EIC’s critics say its approach is superficial, even by the shallow standards of Hollywood. Melissa Havard, director of Advocates forYouth’s outpost in Hollywood, known as the Media Project, says the two groups were “in some ways” competitors. Both EIC and Mediascope were funded to work on youth violence, drug abuse and their prevention. Beginning in 1997, Mediascope was a subcontractor for the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy’s $1 billion (and counting) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. EIC’s Dyak, a one-time youth worker for the Tampa, Fla., YMCA, and a former staffer at the National Network for Youth, says Mediascope failed because it was more “cause-oriented” than EIC. Success in Hollywood, he says, is all about “who’s getting trade press” for their work on the depiction of young people.
Unfortunately for Mediascope (and for Media Project), few foundations make a priority of influencing adolescent behavioral health issues. One past funder of Advocates for Youth was the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. It has transformed itself into an operating foundation (i.e., no grant making) with its own effort to educate the entertainment industry on youth health issues. Within the philanthropic world, Kaiser is second to none when it comes to media savvy. Kaiser’s vice president and director of its Entertainment and Media Partnerships, Tina Hoff, says Kaiser supported Advocates for Youth’s work for five to six years and has continued to “contract with them” since. Voicing “respect” for what Mediascope has accomplished, Hoff fails to see how Kaiser’s shift in its modus operandi from grant making to in-house tasking has hurt other nonprofits engaged in similar media work.
EIC’s situation stands in stark contrast to the foundation-grant-bereft Mediascope and Advocates for Youth’s Media Project. EIC has a grant of $3.5 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as well as a recent renewal grant of $100,000 from Chicago’s Joyce Foundation for its work in gun violence.
Other groups, including the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, directed by Marty Kaplan; the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston, directed by Dr. Michael Rich; and the Oakland, Calif.-based Children Now, where Catherine Teare is interim managing director, continue to be active in the kids’ information-brokering business with Hollywood.
In June, Mediascope released its last report, “Prime-Time Teens: Perspectives on the New Youth Media Environment,” which, writes Kelly, “revealed a new industry consensus that television has substantial effects on adolescent viewers.” (The report is available on the website of its funder, the W.T. Grant Foundation, www.wtgrantfoundation.org.)
Mediascope’s most recent executive director, Donna Mitroff, formerly with Fox Family Worldwide, says the biggest loss will be Mediascope’s role in “bringing people together to create dialogue” about the portrayal of young people on screen.
A decade ago, Tricia Robin, president of the National Council for Families and Television, carped about Mediascope’s fund-raising success to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “I would think foundations would try to spread their grants around, so that more people are working on media-violence issues,” she said. That’s no longer a problem; few foundations are even trying to spread the money around to public interest groups that are trying to influence Hollywood’s portrail of young people. Contact: Entertainment Industries Council, (703) 481-1414, www.eiconline.org.
Grantees under the Youth Development Fund initiative:
• Asian American Lead, Washington, $650,000.
• BELL, Dorchester, Mass., $1.25 million over two years.
• Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, $2 million over four years.
• Citizen Schools, Boston, $5 million over four years.
• Cool Girls, Atlanta, $450,000 over two years.
• Harlem Children’s Zone, New York, $12.75 million.
• MY TURN, Brockton, Mass., $1.8 million.
• Roca, Boston, $1.75 million.
• Vocational Foundation, Brooklyn, N.Y., $1.5 million.
• Washington Tennis & Education Foundation, Washington, $1 million.
• Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Philadelphia, $10 million.
• Boys & Girls Club of America, Atlanta, $10 million.
• Friends of the Children, Portland, Ore., $1.5 million.
• Girls Inc., New York, $4 million.
• Nurse Family Partnership, Denver, $1.8 million.
• Center for Employment Opportunities, New York, $250,000.
• Southend Community Services, Hartford, Conn., $250,000.