Leaders, Risk-Takers and Advocates
The Council on Foundations honored three foundations this year with its PAUL YLVISAKER AWARD FOR PUBLIC POLICY ENGAGEMENT: The New York Community Trust, the Open Society Institute and the Rosenberg Foundation. The 2003 honorees more than met the award criteria of demonstrated excellence in affecting public policy through creative and effective strategies. The foundations' achievements also truly embody the award's intent of informing and inspiring other grantmakers to become engaged in policy work.
THE NEW YORK COMMUNITY TRUST in New York City was recognized for creating the September 11th Fund with the United Way of New York City within hours of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The trust showed how a community foundation's rapidly developed partnerships with public and private institutions could meet both immediate and long-term needs. The fund's creative grantmaking approach included serving undocumented aliens and gay familieswith whom other organizations were unwilling to dealand giving approval to informal payment to more efficiently distribute funds than normal bureaucratic systems.
During this crucial time, the trust continued its regular support and funding of its local grantees who were also affected by the attacks. Despite the media's focus on what went wrong in the aftermath with disbursement of donations to the September 11th Fund, the trust's staff and that of the fund steadfastly continued their mission of providing relief and recovery for those in need.
OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE (OSI) in New York City was honored for its U.S. program's risk-taking grantmaking in areas such as drug policy, reproductive health, education, immigration and criminal justice. Not shy in dealing with controversial issues, OSI was instrumental in establishing programs and engaging other funders for those areas, some of which were unpopular from the perspective of both the public and grantmaking community. The institute's use of communication and public policy strategies kept those issues in front of the public and policymakers, and led to successful policy changes:
ROSENBERG FOUNDATION in San Francisco was acknowledged for its influential policy work on behalf of immigrants and minority communities. This small grantmaker has built coalitions during the past 25 years that ensured the implementation of policies to foster the social, economic and cultural integration of immigrants and minorities. Rosenberg's work on immigration policy began in the 1980s, when it supported the background and public education work leading to the passage of the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. IRCA provided opportunities for millions of undocumented immigrants to legalize their status and begin the process of naturalization. Through its networking and grantmaking, Rosenberg helped build a coalition of community groups, churches, employers and unions to help immigrants take advantage of this onetime opportunity.
In the 1990s, Rosenberg continued to champion the rights of immigrants when it led a successful legal battle to overturn California Proposition 187, which prohibited state public health and education providers from serving undocumented immigrants. Just two years later, Rosenberg led an effort in northern California to address the negative implications that resulted from the national welfare reform legislation of 1996. Through its work, more than 50,000 people were able to obtain U.S. citizenship and protect their welfare benefits.
Engraved crystal sculptures were presented to the foundations during the April 29 award luncheon at the Council on Foundations 54th Annual Conference in Dallas.
The award was created to honor the life of Paul Ylvisaker who, as a government official, foundation executive and educator, was dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through his work in urban affairs, civil rights, community engagement, the environment and philanthropy. For more about Ylvisaker's legacy, visit www.cof.org/newsroom/awards/ylvisaker/index.htm.
Katie Lamb is public policy and government relations coordinator at the Council on Foundations.
Darlene M. Siska is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, specializing in nonprofits and philanthropy. She can be reached at DSiska@aol.com.