Voice of US Not for Profits, Rick Cohen, Dies
18 November 2015 at 12:22 pm
Outspoken US Not for Profit leader and advocate, Rick Cohen, a former President of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and online columnist, has died suddenly at the age of 64.
Social media platform, Twitter, was flooded with condolence messages for the writer and Not for Profit advocate who was well known by Australian audiences.
— Darin McKeever (@darinmckeever) November 17, 2015
Cohen, a prolific user of social media, posted his last tweet on Tuesday about his Cohen Report on civil society’s responsibility in the wake of the Paris attacks.
— Rick Cohen (@cohenreport) November 17, 2015
Over many years Cohen controversially pushed for what he called democratising philanthropy.
“Philanthropy in the United States is still structured around a highly undemocratic dynamic, with few opportunities for the voices of communities, nonprofits, and their constituents to be heard,” Cohen said in an interview in 2006.
“By that I mean, most foundations are relatively immune to or removed from input, criticism, dialogue, and debate. Second, the structure of philanthropy reinforces that lack of democratic give-and-take, in that foundation boards of trustees are still pretty narrowly comprised in terms of race, ethnicity, and, particularly, social class.
“Third, although the Filer Commission back in the 1970s urged philanthropy to measure itself against public needs and priorities, much of philanthropy does relatively little to address critical issues in our society, much less put money into the hands of groups that are on the front lines working to address society's most pressing problems and concerns.
“And fourth, while the foundation field pays lip service to the legality and legitimacy of funding groups that do advocacy work, most foundations still seem reluctant to engage in that kind of work themselves, at least with any passion or vigor. That's particularly evident in foundations' support, or lack thereof, for grassroots, community-based organizations, which most authentically represent the concerns of constituencies that don't get a fair shake in our society.”
Cohen joined online media group NFP Quarterly in 2006, after almost eight years as the Executive Director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Before that he played various roles as a community worker and advisor. He has also worked in government. Cohen advocated for increased philanthropic giving and access for disenfranchised constituencies, and promoted increased philanthropic and Not for Profit accountability.