Way back in 2008 Bernard Madoff managed to wipe out several foundations. The theft he (allegedly) committed reduced several foundations' asset sheets to zero, left a lot of nonprofits with unfulfilled pledges from donors or unpaid grants on their books, and caused a lot of people a lot of hurt. He also caused a lot of people to look more closely at their own behavior, some to demand more regulation of nonprofits, a few to wonder "where were the regulators?" some to point fingers, others to "pick themselves up, dust themselves off" and start again. I've written on the Madoff-ripoff, its effects and responses at some length here, here, here, here, and here. Twitter feeds for Madoff are here.
Yesterday, The Jewish Funders Network announced a $5 million loan fund for organizations in crisis. In addition to the JFN effort, MoveOn, OSI, and Atlantic Philanthropies raised money for organizations hit by Madoff, as did a purely volunteer effort called TheyNeedUsNow.
Nicholas Kristof wrote about Madoff today - and published this list of 147 foundations who lost money in the scheme - in many cases, they lost ALL their money .
The New York Times also ran a story yesterday about how the "ebbing economic tide" is revealing many other mini-Madoffs, something I remarked upon back in one of my early posts on this - Madoff may be big, but he's not alone. The Times also had a story on the proposed sell-off of the Rose Art Museum collection as a means to raise funds for Brandeis University, which - like peer universities has seen its endowment plummet in recent months - and may also have suffered from Madoff exposure.
It may still be too early to tell what all this adds up to - not just in terms of dollars, organizations, and good work lost, but in other important ways. Some areas worth watching over time include:
- What is the longer-term damage to the "network" or "infrastructure" of organizations that do work on women's issues, progressive causes, and within the Jewish world? - three sometimes overlapping but usually distinct sub-sectors particularly hard hit by Madoff. Can these networks recreate themselves in stronger ways?
- How are/will/should investment decision protocols and processes change at nonprofit organizations (including endowed foundations)? Will these change by virtue of "lessons learned" or will it take regulation?
- How will donors react to this event in the longer-term? Will they ask different questions, seek more specific information from nonprofits, be scared away from giving, or reach more deeply into their pockets to help organizations hurt by others' crimes?
- MoveOn took on a new role in working with Atlantic and OSI - will it expand this kind of work? What about online social networks in general - twitter, blogs, and facebook all sprouted #Madoff related sites - what might this event show us in terms of news, nonprofits, scandal and social media?