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Aaron Dorfman
Aaron Dorfman is executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. NCRP works to ensure America's grantmakers are responsive to the needs of those with the least wealth, opportunity and power.

Before joining NCRP in 2007, Dorfman served for 15 years as a community organizer with two national organizing networks, spearheading grassroots campaigns to improve public education, expand public transportation for low-income residents and improve access to affordable housing. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Carleton College (where he studied under the late Senator Paul Wellstone) and a master's degree in philanthropic studies from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Dorfman frequently speaks and writes about the importance of diversity in philanthropy, the benefits of foundation funding for advocacy and community organizing, and the need for greater accountability and transparency in the philanthropic sector.

Entries by Aaron Dorfman

Unsolicited Advice for Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan on Their New Philanthropic Initiative

(2) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 11:37 AM

Congratulations to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan on their new baby girl, Max, and on their enormous charitable gift to launch the new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). By now everyone has heard that the Chan Zuckerbergs announced they will give away 99 percent of their stock in Facebook...

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Do Corporate Grantmakers Care More About the Poor Than Other Foundations?

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2015 | 12:48 PM


Corporate boardrooms are not known to be reliable benefactors of populations in greatest need. And yet, many of the nation's most recognizable corporations -- the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, ExxonMobil Foundation, the Walmart Foundation...

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Foundations Must Be 'Freedom Funders' Once Again

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 3:45 PM

Photo: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. Cecil Stoughton/White House Press Office

July marks the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most far-reaching emancipatory reform in American history -- passage of the Civil...

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How Philanthropy Contributed to Improved Conditions for Tomato Pickers

(0) Comments | Posted May 2, 2014 | 11:33 PM

On the front page of The New York Times last week, there was a fantastic article about how the abusive practices faced by workers in Florida tomato fields have virtually ended. Laborers, mostly immigrants, are now less likely to be abused, and they experience better working conditions and...

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Foundation Leaders and President Obama Get It Right With 'My Brother's Keeper'

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2014 | 4:34 PM

Something major just happened in philanthropy. It is certainly the most significant and strategic development so far in 2014, and it just might prove to be the most important thing that happens in our sector all year.

On Feb. 27, President Barack Obama announced the launch of a new public-private...

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It's Time to Burst the Isolation Bubble Foundation Leaders Inhabit

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2013 | 3:19 PM

Institutional philanthropy operates in a bubble. Foundations lack feedback loops and accountability mechanisms that are built into other sectors of society. Most don't really know if they could be doing their work better or how: they don't hear constructive criticisms from their peers, their nonprofit grantees or members of the...

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Can the Philanthropic Community Find Its Courage and Become More Effective?

(0) Comments | Posted September 18, 2013 | 3:17 PM

Over the past 50 years, our nation has achieved historic progress on a number of daunting challenges, including fuller civil rights for women and people of color, cleaner air and cleaner water. In many victories, foundations played a positive role by investing in the nonprofits spearheading reform.

Today, our nation...

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Proposed CFC Rules Threaten Donor Choice and Funding for Nonprofit Advocacy

(4) Comments | Posted May 19, 2013 | 10:49 AM

The federal government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers regarding which charitable organizations its employees can support with their donations. But that's exactly what will happen if some new rules currently under consideration get approved.

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is the world's largest...

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Will New Congress Believe Banks' Inflated Claims of Good Corporate Citizenship?

(7) Comments | Posted January 3, 2013 | 4:02 PM

The 113th Congress must complete the unfinished business of financial reform if they hope to place our nation on a strong footing for future prosperity. Unfortunately, the banking industry will continue to use every tool at its disposal -- including overblown claims about its philanthropic giving -- to stave off...

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'Fiscal Cliff' Deal a Victory for Nonprofits That Care About Poor and Vulnerable Communities

(0) Comments | Posted January 2, 2013 | 5:04 PM

The plan passed by Congress over the New Year's holiday to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" is a resounding victory for nonprofits that serve or represent those with the least wealth, opportunity and power. I applaud President Obama and Vice-President Biden for negotiating a good deal for...

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Social Justice Needs Funding

(1) Comments | Posted December 12, 2012 | 5:51 PM

Whatever right-wing media would have us believe about the likes of George Soros and Warren Buffett and the philanthropic pursuit of "social justice," the truth is that social justice grantmaking is still a small fraction of foundation giving in this country.

A new analysis of social justice...

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Nonprofits and the Fiscal Cliff

(2) Comments | Posted November 26, 2012 | 11:40 AM

What should be the top priorities for nonprofit organizations during the fiscal cliff negotiations?

If you've been listening to the associations that claim to represent nonprofits and foundations, you could easily believe that fighting off any change to the charitable deduction is the only issue that matters. Nothing could be...

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Study About Nonprofit Advocacy Spoiled by Outrageous, Self-Serving Recommendations

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2012 | 2:07 PM

Independent Sector, a D.C.-based trade association and leadership network representing hundreds of our nation's largest charities and foundations, recently released a long-awaited study. Beyond the Cause: The Art and Science of Advocacy offers more than 200 pages of modestly helpful insight and analysis that is a...

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Funding for the Arts Sometimes Benefits All of Us

(6) Comments | Posted June 14, 2012 | 5:26 PM

Does funding for the arts benefit only elite arts patrons, or does the rest of society benefit, too? In these times of limited philanthropic dollars, this is an incredibly important question.

On June 8th, Americans for the Arts released findings from its fourth report on the arts and...

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The Council on Foundations Doesn't Need Better Marketing, It Needs a Vision

(2) Comments | Posted November 21, 2011 | 10:53 AM

Kevin Laskowski, research and policy associate, contributed substantially to this commentary.

Former Congressman Steve Gunderson recently left the helm of the Council on Foundations, a philanthropic trade association whose 1,700 members give away some $20 billion annually in grants. The Council wisely solicited comments on the...

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Koch 'Philanthropy' Advances Koch Business, Political Agendas

(17) Comments | Posted October 26, 2011 | 10:16 PM

By Aaron Dorfman and Bob Edgar.

This week, a few hundred people who lead foundations will gather in Scottsdale, Arizona., for the annual meeting of Philanthropy Roundtable, an organization that promotes independent giving to solve America's challenges while encouraging laws and regulations that make it easy for wealthy people to...

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Why Nonprofits Should Support the American Jobs Act of 2011

(5) Comments | Posted September 28, 2011 | 10:02 AM

Leaders of our nation's nonprofit sector are vehemently opposing the cap on itemized deductions proposed by President Obama as a way to help pay for the American Jobs Act. Instead of acting out of a concern for the common good, these charity leaders have been acting to protect the narrowest...

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Bloomberg Makes Largest Advocacy Grant Ever

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2011 | 7:50 PM

Kudos to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies for making a $50 million grant to the Sierra Club for its work to advocate and organize against coal-fired power plants in the United States. The story broke in Thursday's Washington Post.

The grant...

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The Giving Pledge: Dangerous Implications For Democratic Decision-Making

(7) Comments | Posted December 21, 2010 | 2:40 PM

This is the second and final part of a series of posts that looks at why I am skeptical that The Giving Pledge will have the kind of impact many people are saying it will. In Part I, I explored how the pledge is likely to...

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Why We Should Dial Down Our Enthusiasm for the Giving Pledge

(70) Comments | Posted December 15, 2010 | 3:26 PM

Last week, 17 more billionaires signed on to the Giving Pledge and declared their intention to give away to charitable organizations at least 50 percent of their wealth. The initiative is being spearheaded by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

I've been following this effort since it...

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