Philanthropy Notes: November 2011

After helping to wreck the U.S. economy, taxpayer-subsidized mortgage behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shelled out big bucks to co-sponsor the opulent 98th annual convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association in Chicago, the New York Times reports. Fannie paid $60,000 to be a “gold” sponsor of the event while Freddie paid $80,000 to be a “platinum” sponsor. Taxpayers have given about $150 billion in bailout money to the two secondary mortgage market players so far.

The late founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, wasn’t known for philanthropy, but his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, who stands to inherit his vast fortune, may be more interested in philanthropic giving. Mrs. Jobs, a former investment banker, has reportedly been deeply involved in backing education reform, women’s issues, and the Democratic Party. “She is very much of the school of ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’” said Carlos Watson, who co-founded an educational reform group called College Track with her 14 years ago. Mrs. Jobs is president of College Track’s board and is also a member of the boards of Teach for America, NewSchools Venture Fund, Stand for Children, Conservation International, and New America Foundation. Recently she created a philanthropy called the Emerson Collective which “works with a range of entrepreneurs to advance domestic and international social reform efforts,” according to her official biography.

Innovative Palo Alto, Calif.-based design firm IDEO, which helps companies such as Apple, Ford, and Bank of America develop new products, has launched a philanthropic arm called IDEO.org. Patrice Martin, creative director of IDEO.org, said the charity will ask potential beneficiaries how to help them. All the planning in the world won’t help people “unless what you’re creating is actually desired by the people you’re designing it for.”

Resource Generation, a nonprofit for affluent young people who want to work for social change, created a website called “We Are the One Percent,” showing young people who are pledging “solidarity” with the Occupy Wall Street protesters who are demanding higher taxes on the so-called rich. Supporters are shown holding signs in which they apologize for their wealth. All the signs end with, “I am the 1 percent. I stand with the 99 percent,” the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell has been appointed president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, the philanthropy announced. In January Burwell will replace Margaret A. McKenna, who is retiring after four years of service. Burwell joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001, leading its global development program until she resigned in August to spend more time with her parents as they grow older.

 

GOLDMAN SACHS WATCH

Goldman Sachs has had a really bad month in terms of public relations. Left-wing satirist Andy Borowitz’s website published a fake open letter to investors from Goldman chairman Lloyd Blankfein. “Blankfein” notes that Goldman has observed the Occupy Wall Street protests and “we have asked ourselves this question: How can we make money off them?” The chairman announced the creation of the “Goldman Sachs Global Rage Fund, whose investment objective is to monetize the Occupy Wall Street protests as they spread around the world.” The new fund “will seek out opportunities to invest in products that are poised to benefit from the spreading protests, from police batons and barricades to stun guns and forehead bandages.” As clashes between police and protesters become increasingly violent, “we are making significant bets on companies that manufacture replacements for broken windows and overturned cars, as well as the raw materials necessary for the construction and incineration of effigies.”

The Vermont branch of Occupy Wall Street drove away Goldman analyst Jeff Ares who was scheduled to address students at his alma mater about working in the financial services industry. University of Vermont business school dean Sanjay Sharma said Goldman canceled the talk after Occupy Vermont activists threatened to demonstrate at the speech.

Radical activists stormed Goldman’s office in Milan, the financial capital of Italy, as part of worldwide protests against capitalism. The demonstrators left behind graffiti attacking Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and saying “Give us money.” Italian radicals are apparently not as longwinded as their American counterparts.

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