Since the official designation by the United Nations in 1975, March 8th has been considered International Women’s Day. The annual celebration can be traced back to February 1908 in New York City, when garment workers went on strike and marched through the city protesting unjust working conditions and unequal pay. The day was quickly recognized in Europe in the early 1910s, and German campaigner Clara Zetkin transitioned the day into an international movement advocating for universal suffrage. In Russia, International Women’s Day was established in 1913, and related protests in March 1917 directly led to women gaining the right to vote that year—one year earlier than Britain and three years earlier than the United States.
KEXP, a public radio station in Seattle, is reeling from planned giving donations as many of its listeners move to include the radio station in their estate plans. The majority of KEXP’s supporters fall in the mid-30s to mid-50s age range so it comes as a surprise to the station that so many listeners are planning their estate plans with KEXP in mind. KEXP has retained supporters spanning decades of annual giving since it began as a college station in the early 1970s.
Last year a loyal listener left a $10 million bequest to KEXP, making it the largest gift the station has ever received. Known as Suzanne, this donor previously made a gift to the capital campaign for a new KEXP facility in 2015. Following this gift, she was invited to lunch with KEXP’s executive director, where they discussed the campaign for the new facility and Suzanne’s relationship with the radio station at that time. Fast forward to last year when Suzanne made the unexpected donation of $10 million to KEXP, making it among the largest donations ever given to a single public radio station. Following this donation, KEXP received a $20,000 bequest from a first-time donor. This gift prompted the creation of the formal planned giving operation now officially known as the Reverb Society.
The new planned giving club is promoted just a few times a year and with minimal marketing. A KEXP fundraiser says the fundraising team sees the planned giving club as a slower and drawn-out process that will develop over time. Fortunately, Suzanne’s unprecedented gift activated other donors who subsequently informed KEXP of their planned bequest commitments to the station in their estate plans. While KEXP continues to receive unsolicited calls from lawyers and estate planners, the radio station can continue to revel in the influx of bequest donors and the progression of their newly launched giving club, the Reverb Society.
Introduced by Arkansas Senator Kim Hammer, Bill 231 would permit state oversight of business deals made by nonprofits that work with public entities, such as support foundations for universities and other public institutions. The bill would grant the public transparency of copies of documents including contracts and loan agreements made by such foundations. This legislation is endorsed by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Task Force, composed of attorneys, public officials, and journalists. An attorney from the task force insists the bill presents an appropriate balance of the public’s right to know about the work of private foundations, and that it makes it clear that it applies to private entities. Another task force member cites the documents in question are already subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
However, this bill comes as The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was just denied documents they had requested from university support foundations. Although the IRS Form 990 is publicly accessible, it presents expenses with few details. When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was unsuccessful in obtaining documents from the Razorback Foundation (a private foundation assisting University of Arkansas in the search for a new head football coach), the newspaper probed further into the separation between the school and support foundation. In addition to finding 22,000 emails between foundation staff and the university, the newspaper found the University of Arkansas promoted the foundation membership program and also let the foundation renege on millions of dollars of capital campaign commitments. A system spokesperson from the University of Arkansas said the system opposes Bill 231 “as it is written”, and claims that defining foundation records as ‘public’ would negatively impact private fundraising for university projects. The university gave no explanation to back up this claim. Robert Steinbuch, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who helped write Bill 231, claims this storyline is common. Support foundations like the Razorback Foundation exist to help universities, but the two entities must be maintained as singular and separate.
Startups are popping up across all industries, and investors are now searching for innovative technology companies to take on the challenges of the costly U.S. healthcare system. Investors are looking to reverse the spiraling costs in the $3.5 trillion healthcare market, and are referring to startups as potential models to reduce costs and deliver quality services. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare expenditures comprise nearly 18% of the gross domestic product, with hospital care and physician services rising higher than average in recent years. Panelists at last week’s Association for Corporate Growth’s 11th Annual Healthcare Conference advocated for innovated strategies to be used to find companies that achieve cost-savings and improved patient outcomes. Oak HC/FT, a $1.1 billion healthcare venture fund is searching the healthcare landscape for innovations that reduce the “social determinants” of poor health among vulnerable populations.
With new technologies specifically addressing these populations and their need for increased housing, transportation, and nutritional care, hospital admission rates could drop drastically. For example, SafeRide Health, a medical transportation startup, could reduce hospital admission rates among dialysis patients by providing necessary transportation throughout their entire treatment, rather than interrupting treatment due to a patient’s lack of transportation. Ankur Agrawal, a partner at McKinsey & Co.’s healthcare systems and services practice, encourages healthcare professionals to adopt a “fee for value versus fee for care” model which would control the costs of services by aligning incentives for insurance payers and doctors to deliver care based on overall quality of the services provided. Agrawal identifies the main drivers of the healthcare system as physicians and not consumers, thus differentiating this industry from others and proving it difficult to compare with other industries’ startups. The question of how to rein in healthcare costs and produce improved patient outcomes lies in diverse and innovative models that may be incomparable to existing startups due to the structure and influential players of the current healthcare system.
Following the successful teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland, on March 5th, 2019 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that will require charter schools to follow the same transparency rules that apply to public schools. Among other issues, the topic of charter schools emerged from the recent teacher strikes. Senate Bill 126 will require more transparency from charter schools, including holding open meetings and adherence to the California Public Records Act. Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown vetoed similar measures while in office, and Newsom says that the bill “made common sense…Sometimes people claim they are for transparency for everybody else, but not for themselves. In this case its transparency for all of us.” Newsom was joined by the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) in supporting the implementation of stronger oversight of charter schools. CTA and CCSA have historically battled one another, so it comes as an accomplishment for both of them to sign on to the new bill, sending the message that the two groups are reaching a new phase of dialogue on the issue of school transparency. The law will go into effect in January 2020, although it makes no mention of the proposed moratorium on charter school expansion brought by the Los Angeles Board of Education.
Nonprofit governance literature uses the term “founder’s syndrome” to explain the challenges that nonprofits face once the founder has carried out all major efforts to initiate and launch their organization. Any illness stemming from the organization typically tends to fall on the founder, and Elizabeth Schmidt, author of this article, affirms that the board of the organization should address the symptoms of founder’s syndrome from a mission-centric point of view in order to mitigate governance issues and to avoid stereotypes and blaming of the organization’s founder. Schmidt identifies the four main symptoms of “founder’s syndrome”; the sense of grandiosity of the founder’s organization to serve his or her ego, the inability to delegate responsibilities; the inability to make smooth transitions in and out of positions; and the unwavering dedication to the original vision of the organization. Although some founder situations do fit the diagnosis, these conditions of governance are also found in non-founder-led organizations. Founder’s syndrome literature draws from commonsense notions and anecdotes, reinforcing stereotypes of nonprofit leadership, Schmidt claims.
The literature surrounding founder’s syndrome suggests potential psychological problems of founders, coupled with the irony of denial being a major part of the syndrome, as it is impossible to defend oneself without exhibiting some form of denial. Studies have been done to measure organizations’ governance practices and attitudes among founder-led and non-founder-led organizations, which produced inconclusive results. Schmidt does not find substantial evidence in the data that “founder’s syndrome” is true and accurate and believes that targeting founders with the syndrome label reflects the worrisome trend of a “one-size-fits-all” mentality that emphasizes “best practices” that do not always lead to better governance. Instead, governance should be emphasized in the mission of the organization, as should the board’s duty of obedience to the mission.
Overall, the founder’s syndrome diagnosis is overly broad and nears on a stereotypical, simplification, and exaggeration of an organization’s governance, not to mention the blame placed on founders for all past, present, and future issues tied to their organizations. Belief in the “founder’s syndrome” produces a distrust that could subsequently prevent founders from appropriately addressing and implementing ideas and practices to solve some of society’s problems, thus doing a disservice to the individual founders, the organizations themselves, and society as a whole.