Lessons for the Nonprofit Board from SVCF Crisis

 “Recent events at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) have rocked the philanthropic community and left many wondering why things went so terribly wrong.” In April 2018, the largest community foundation in the United States (with assets of over $13 billion) imploded quite spectacularly when journalist Marc Gunther published a blockbuster expose in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. We covered this scandal in Read More

Stakeholder Revolts and Successful Comebacks

Back in 2015, we featured two stories about troubled nonprofit institutions on opposite coasts. The common thread in each tale was a stakeholder revolt which successfully challenged the board's apparent emergency decisions to shut down operations. The rebel force in each organization (bolstered by supporters in and beyond the local communities) not only averted a dissolution but also quickly regrouped. Old Read More

Corporate Governance: No Longer Just About Business

With the goal of closing the gender gap in corporate governance, in 2018 former Governor Jerry Brown signed into law requirements that all publicly traded corporations in California include at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, those companies that have five member boards must have at least two directors who are female. For boards with six or more directors the Read More

Another Bungled College Closing

All around the United States, in recent years, small liberal arts college are facing tough choices resulting from increasing costs but declining enrollments. Part of this is the result of a demographic trend: the post World War II population explosion that produced huge student pools of baby boomers a few decades ago has receded as boomers, themselves, produced far few children.   For these colleges, there have been Read More

Goodwill Omaha: AG Issues Scathing Report

Back in 2016, the Omaha World-Herald ran a devastating series of articles about Goodwill Omaha, the well-known 501(c)(3) that is one of Nebraska’s biggest charities. Perhaps the most damaging element in this expose was the compensation level of the group’s top executives: They were the highest paid of Goodwill organizations in the United States at the same time that the workers of the thrift shop giant were paid Read More

How Big is “Too Big” For a Community Foundation?

In this fourth part of a series arising out of the recently exposed travails of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, we consider the argument raised by a number of expert observers that, for a nonprofit organization, bigger is not always better. And, in the case of a community foundation, an unrelenting push to expand beyond the community from which the foundation takes its name, may be a particularly troublesome Read More

Observations About Silicon Valley Community Foundation From Outside Its Bubble

In Secrets and Lies at Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Scandal Erupts at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, we began a multi-part series on the spectacular implosion of the nation’s largest community foundation. The scandal that blew open the problems at this charity was a #MeToo tale of a toxic workplace that continued for over a decade. We continue now with a look at the findings of the independent law Read More

Museum Diversity in the Spotlight

Several recent studies confirm a problem in the top leadership ranks of America’s museums: a dramatic gender and racial gap. It’s no coincidence that “[t]he demographic profile of museum board members reveals considerable ethnic and racial homogeneity along with minimal age diversity”; in other words, it’s mostly older, white guys. Two recent high-level appointments in the New York area have raised questions - Read More

Scandal Erupts at Silicon Valley Community Foundation

In just over ten years, a new community foundation in Silicon Valley - the result of a merger of two existing organizations - grew into one of the nation’s philanthropic powerhouses. With assets totaling $13.5 billion by February 2018, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation became not only the largest community foundation in the United States but also vaulted ahead of venerable philanthropies like the Ford and Read More

Fun Facts about Corporate Minutes

Seriously? You were expecting fun facts about minutes? We’re more interested than the average law firm in drafting effective corporate documents, but even we don’t think minutes are fun. But they are important. Corporate minutes are much more than meaningless formalities or mere note-taking; they are legal requirements of substance that have important consequences. That’s what we wrote in “Breach of Fiduciary Read More