“Asian-Americans Gain Influence in Philanthropy.” By Kirk Semple. New York Times. January 8, 2013. About 800 people gathered in November in a ballroom in Midtown Manhattan for one of the year’s more elegant galas. They dined on beef tenderloin with truffle butter, bid on ski and golf vacations in a charity auction, and gave more than $1 million to a nonprofit group based in New York. But this was not an old-money event. The donors were largely Korean immigrants and their children. Members of a new class of affluent Asian-Americans, many of whom have benefited from booms in finance and technology, are making their mark on philanthropy in the United States. They are donating large sums to groups focused on their own diasporas or their homelands, like the organization that held the fund-raiser, the Korean American Community Foundation. And they are giving to prestigious universities, museums, concert halls and hospitals — like Yale University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The institutions, in turn, are increasingly courting Asian-Americans, who are taking high-profile slots on their governing boards.
“Philanthropist Abandons Plan for Velodrome in Brooklyn Park.” By David Goodman. New York Times. January 10, 2013. many New Yorkers, an improbable but well-financed plan to bring a bicycle racing track to Brooklyn Bridge Park has collapsed. Joshua P. Rechnitz, the reclusive philanthropist behind the project, said on Wednesday that he and his team had withdrawn their proposal for the park and would seek another location in or around the city for the indoor sports complex. For cyclists, it is a velodrome dream deferred. For some Brooklyn residents, who balked at the use of an outsize park parcel for a niche sport, it is good riddance. But in the end, supporters said, the neighborhood was just too expensive. The decision to abandon the Brooklyn park, reached at a meeting on Monday, came after planners were unable to produce a design that could fit within the bounds of Mr. Rechnitz’s $50 million pledge for its construction and maintenance, despite months of efforts. “You can’t build a facility of this nature, at this site, at this budget,” said Greg J. Brooks, the executive director of N.Y.C. Fieldhouse, the nonprofit group behind the project. “We’re very excited and eager to find a new home for this recreation center and velodrome. The funding remains intact.” The money came from Mr. Rechnitz, 47, in what is among the largest individual gifts in the history of New York City’s parks. A central requirement of the gift had been the inclusion of the bicycle racing track in the complex. “The New York metropolitan area deserves a world-class cycling and recreation center,” Mr. Rechnitz said in a statement on Wednesday. “I greatly regret that this cannot happen in Brooklyn Bridge Park, but I am confident that we will find a new home for the field house in the very near future.”
“Detroit Receives $150 Million Gift.” By Matthew Dolan. Detroit Free Press/Associated Press. January 10, 2013. One of the nation’s largest foundations will spend $150 million over the next five years to implement a new land-use plan in an attempt to revitalize this ailing industrial city. The announcement comes as Michigan’s governor is weighing whether to appoint an emergency manager for Detroit because it is running out of cash. A decision could come this month. The Kresge Foundation, the nation’s 17th-largest grant-making foundation by assets, according to the Foundation Center, invested more than $100 million in Detroit over the past decade to construct a riverfront promenade, build greenways and help fund a new 3.4-mile downtown trolley line that is expected to receive federal support. The new philanthropic investment—about $120 million in new funding beyond previously announced programs—is a sign that the foundation based in Troy, Mich., just north of Detroit, and its leader, Rip Rapson, are doubling down on the future of the city despite its chronic fiscal woes. Mr. Rapson said he had confidence other foundations and government programs would follow Kresge’s lead with more funding. “The value will be multiplied if we invest together and strategically,” he said in an interview. Urban planners say many plans similar to the new Detroit blueprint have had disappointing outcomes, relegated to bookshelves as cities struggled find the resources and political will to implement a long-term vision. But Prof. Robin Boyle, chairman of the department of urban studies and planning at Wayne State University here, said the new Detroit framework is encouraging. “It has the opportunity to set a new direction and a new tone that the city has to be smaller, tighter and more dense.” He cited Philadelphia as an aging industrial city that has made strides in finding new uses for its vacant and underused property.
“Scientific research increasingly fueled by prize money; Prize sponsors, like those in centuries past, say that offering financial incentives gets new people thinking about old problems. But some worry the trend could distort scientific priorities.” By Eryn Brown. Los Angeles Times. January 10, 2013. Back when he was in medical school in the 1970s, Gary Michelson was nauseated by the portion of his training known as dog lab — a class where surgeons-in-training removed dogs’ organs one at a time, over 13 weeks, with no post-operative pain relief, until their animal “patients” could no longer survive. The lab bothered Michelson so much, he openly defied the dean’s orders to do the operations. “I said, I don’t understand that I need to mutilate a dog to learn how to be a competent surgeon for human beings,” he said. These days, the Los Angeles spinal surgeon and inventor would still like to save animals’ lives, but through a new cause: birth control for dogs and cats. Michelson has the means: He received a $1.35-billion settlement in 2005 related to his spinal surgery inventions. He wants to use some of that to put an end to millions of euthanasias by getting scientists to invent an inexpensive, single-dose method for sterilizing dogs and cats. Biotech companies haven’t been interested in producing the Pill for a pit bull or an IUD for a Siamese, because it wasn’t likely to be very profitable. Top-notch scientists didn’t have much motivation to figure out if it was even possible. Michelson hopes to make it worth their while with the Michelson Prize in Reproductive Biology — a cool $25-million purse for the first researcher to solve the problem. Ever since the splashy success of the Ansari X Prize, which in 2004 awarded $10 million to a team that launched a spacecraft 60 miles above Earth, funders are turning to contests — some with big cash prizes — to get answers to nagging scientific questions.
“A Patron With Passion in Los Angeles.” No by-line. New York Times. January 13, 2013. This sprawling city is known internationally for many things — but great dance isn’t one of them. The philanthropist Glorya Kaufman is doing her best to change that. In November the University of Southern California announced that Ms. Kaufman had donated enough money to start a dance school, a prospective Juilliard of the West. Though the exact sum has not been disclosed, it’s big. Robert Cutietta, the dean of the Thornton School of Music at U.S.C. and the man who will now head that university’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, confirmed that the figure was in the multimillion-dollar range. The money will go to a new building — the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center — and to endowing a bachelor of fine arts program combining conservatory-style dance instruction with business training and a liberal arts education. While this is probably the largest check that Ms. Kaufman has written for dance, it’s far from the first. She’s lavished millions on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Juilliard School, her dance foundation helps finance community charities, and the $20 million she donated to the Music Center in Los Angeles in 2009 helps bring major dance companies, like American Ballet Theater, to the city with the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance series. The $18 million gift she gave the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1999, which set records back then, resulted in Glorya Kaufman Hall, but also in a dissatisfied Glorya Kaufman. Ms. Kaufman’s husband, Donald Kaufman, founded (with Eli Broad) the hugely successful homebuilding company Kaufman & Broad (now known as KB Home). In 1983 Mr. Kaufman died in a biplane crash; he was the pilot, and his passenger, his son-in-law, also died. Not long afterward Ms. Kaufman turned to charity work. Last month she discussed her dance philanthropy with Brian Seibert at her house in Beverly Hills, an Italian-style villa outfitted in art, including her own paintings. Ms. Kaufman, who prefers not to give her age, grew up during the Depression in Detroit, and she retains the accent and friendliness of a Midwesterner. Her reflexively positive nature might also be seen as Midwestern, or perhaps as Californian — and appropriately so, since she’s decided to make her mark here.
“The ‘Second Disaster’: Making Well-Intentioned Donations Useful.” By Pam Fessler. Weekend Edition Saturday/National Public Radio. January 12, 2013. Among the donations that poured into the American Red Cross building after the earthquake in Haiti three years ago was a box of Frisbees. In a flood of well-intentioned but unneeded donations, this box stuck out to Meghan O’Hara, who oversees in-kind donations for the organization. O’Hara says someone clearly wanted to help — the person mailed the box from Germany — but all she could think was, “Wow. That $60 or $70 could have been sent to so many different organizations to help out in so many different ways, and now we have a box of Frisbees.” Disaster relief groups call this the “second disaster”: the flood of unwanted donations, despite repeated requests for cash. In response to this recurring dilemma, organizations and volunteers are looking for new ways to bridge the gap between what donors give and victims need. Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, says this addresses what’s often another big problem in disaster giving. “Individual donors don’t know why they’re giving or have unrealistic expectations about their gift,” he says. Ottenhoff’s center, formed by a group of foundations and donors, was designed to figure out how best to help disaster victims over the long run. “There’s so much energy, so much generosity, so much passion that goes into disaster relief,” he says, “we sometimes forget that once the disaster is over, the long, hard work of recovery and rebuilding still needs to get done.” That could mean providing help with housing or services like day care. The center has collected $600,000 for Sandy relief so far and is now talking to those affected by the disaster about what kind of aid they really need.