Stronger government oversight is critical to ensuring the health and sustainability of the nonprofit community, according to philanthropy leaders who headlined a Leadership Summit on Global Philanthropy convened by the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising (scps.nyu.edu/philanthropy) at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS).
"The United Kingdom has already begun this process," said Dame Stephanie Shirley, Ambassador for Philanthropy of the United Kingdom and Conference keynote speaker. "In creating an official 'voice' for philanthropy, the U.K. recognizes the importance of the nonprofit sector and the need to provide a voice for those investing significant sums in charity."
"The need for oversight is especially acute in the United States, where 1.8 million nonprofit organizations are absolutely essential to the way our civil society functions," said Naomi Levine, chair and executive director of the Heyman Center. "Americans give more than $300 billion annually to help meet social, cultural, and educational needs here and abroad; they deserve assurance that their generosity meets its goals."
"At the present time," Mrs. Levine continued, "the only U.S. federal agency truly involved with the nonprofits is the IRS. While tax issues involving nonprofits are clearly a matter of concern to our government, taxes should not be viewed as the only nonprofit factor of interest to our government."
"By appointing Dame Stephanie, the United Kingdom has raised the bar for all nations to consider the critical role of philanthropy as a 'Third Sector' in national affairs," said Doug White, academic director of the Heyman Center. "Here in the United States, a first step in this direction was the creation by President Obama of an Office for Social Innovation. However, much more must be done."
NYU-SCPS Dean Robert Lapiner emphasized the increasing importance of global dialogue about philanthropy. "In a world environment of competition for resources and global integration, the role of private philanthropy is becoming increasingly critical, especially in sectors which in years past and in many cultures were once reliant almost exclusively on governmental support. This conference was conceived to provide a welcome forum for sharing strategies, to promote opportunities for reciprocal learning among stakeholders and practitioners, and to help shape an international consensus about best practices."
Attendees at the Leadership Summit on Global Philanthropy were urged to meet with appropriate government officials in their countries to emphasize the importance of transparency and accountability in the nonprofit sector.
The Heyman Center was established in 1999 to help fundraisers learn about the complexities in fundraising and philanthropy and help them become sensitive to the many ethical issues that arise in governance and fundraising.