PSR Philadelphia Hosts Advocacy Training for Med Students, Health Professionals

On January 28th, the Physicians for Social Responsibility – Philadelphia (PSR – Phila) hosted an advocacy training seminar on the campus of Jefferson Hospital. The training was designed to teach a number of skills to medical students and health professionals eager to make their voices heard in the world of political discourse.

The event attracted a tremendous amount of interest, requiring PSR – Phila to compile a waiting list, keeping with an ongoing trend in the wake of the post-election fallout which has seen a massive surge in youth interest in volunteering and political participation.

As Dr. Pouné Saberi from PSR – Phila told Key Elements Group LLC President and CEO Lynette Zimmerman:

Health professionals are the most trusted voice in society, we believe that legislation of all policies benefit from having the input of a health professional. But health professionals are not trained in how to give their opinions in policy making or even voicing their opinion in general media. We hope to provide a certain set of skills that will empower health professionals and students to seek out more visibility in the public policy arena.

The national PSR organization has been a nonprofit for more than 50 years, working on a number of social issues from the perspective of health professionals. Visit the group’s website to learn more.

Funding for Philly Rail Park Grows

(The Reading Viaduct as it currently stands)

The drive to construct a public park on top of the Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia appears to be picking up steam.

The project – in part inspired by the popular High Line in New York City – has been in discussion for over a decade. Now, it may finally become a reality.

A diverse group of funders are making great headway toward raising the projected $29 million necessary to construct the park. From the Fox Chase Bank-affiliated Philadelphia Mortgage Advisors to the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, the business sector is stepping up to help cultivate the public life of Center City.

Grassroots funders are also playing a big role. Friends of the Rail Park – a nonprofit that arose from the merger of two separate organizations both advocating for the elevated park – maintains a donation portal that has enabled individual Philadelphians to contribute to the fundraising efforts.

The studio of landscape architect Bryan Hanes received the commission to design the park, and the initial renderings are stunning. Running through 50 blocks of multicultural neighborhoods, the Reading Viaduct was constructed 1893, and remained in operation for nearly a century before falling into disuse.

Early this year, foundation support gave the project a massive boost. The William Penn and Knight Foundations have contributed $1 million toward the park as part of a larger $11 million package given to improve and expand the Philadelphia park system.

Even if construction is far off, the fundraising activity over the last year has shown immense interest and support behind the project. If the popularity of the city’s Indego bike share program is any indication, New York City urban policies are adaptable to Philadelphia. The park’s eventual construction will certainly contribute to Philadelphia’s ongoing ascent as a national and global cultural center and exemplar of a rich and open public life.

The Pope Comes to Philadelphia

In his first-ever visit to the United States, Pope Francis will travel to Philadelphia to attend the World Meeting of Families. The event – which occurs every three years – will take place in the United States for the very first time. City officials expect up to 2 million people to visit Philadelphia for the Pope’s public appearance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in effect doubling the city’s population for the weekend.

Boosters were expected to raise as much as $45 million for the Pope’s visit. This large sum will cover the expansive operational costs, including security and the management of 10,000 volunteers that will be working around the clock to ensure a smoothly run three day tour.

The World Meeting of Families – while sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family – depends on private contributions and in-kind gifts in order to fund the events. Many of the details concerning the funders for the Pope’s visit will not likely emerge until after the World Meeting of Family’s next tax filing. The organization is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia – who heads the nonprofit – is under investigation by Italian authorities for embezzlement. The case involves Paglia’s tenure in Italy and, according to the World Meeting of Families, is in no way connected to the organization or the planning for the Philadelphia event. 

Government resources and personnel will also play a big part, as the Secret Service and other federal agencies have contributed significantly to the security planning process and will staff the implementation of the security plan, The extent of the primary security perimeter could stretch from the Schuylkill to the Delaware rivers, and from South Street all the way to Girard Avenue. Officials have indicated that a fence will be constructed that completely surrounds City Hall. Analysts believe this is because the influx of people will begin shutting down parts of the city as early as Friday evening.

Despite the logistical head aches and non-stop, city-wide organizing, the visit is expected to provide quite the financial boon for Philadelphia, with a projected $418 million impact spread across the city’s service, hotel, retail, and transportation industries.

Nonprofits and foundations are also leveraging Pope Francis’ visit to improve their fundraising.

The Pope – a veritable media sensation – has helped raise the profile of a number of area charities tackling basic needs issues and other worthy causes. The executive of HOME – an anti-homelessness organization – announced a $1.5 million fundraising campaign in June in conjunction with Francis’ visit. Also known as the Francis Fund, the campaign has contributed $700,000 to more than 40 human services organizations serving Philadelphia and Camden.

The actual extent of the philanthropic and financial impact of the visit will not emerge until months from now, but if the number of passionate faithful inspired by Pope Francis’ message traveling for the event are accurate, there will be a massive pool of generous donors ready to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.

Philadelphia, the Democratic National Convention, and the Nonprofit Sector

On January 14, the Republican Party announced that its 2016 national convention will take place at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Democratic Party has narrowed its field down to three contenders, including Columbus, New York City, and Philadelphia.

The event is no small matter. Conventions during the 2012 election cycle – Tampa Bay for Republicans and Charlotte for Democrats – attracted tens of thousands of people to the two host cities, along with a flush of consumer spending.

Pundits and academics debate the economic benefits of hosting the convention. The National Journal cited one study in 2012 that claims that the financial gain is minimal. The reality most likely rests somewhere in between the wildly optimistic projections of city officials and the reductive conjecture of one study that trades causality for correlation; cities enjoy both an injection of spending as well as intangible rewards, including the the elevation of the city’s cultural brand.

Should the Democratic Party pick Philadelphia, the benefits would be manifold. The influx of civic-minded delegates – energized by the democratic process – would be drawn toward one of the highest concentrations of U.S. cultural treasures and symbols in the entire country. In turn, the city’s world-class cultural institutions and performing arts community would undoubtedly benefit from the uptick of visitors, especially convention delegates habituated to the giving culture inherent to political activity.

The list of Philadelphia’s historical offerings is extensive; the city boasts the Liberty Bell, the Constitution Center, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’ House, and the entirety of the Independence National Historical Park.

The arts are similarly well-represented. Philadelphia is third in the nation for per capita spending on the arts. From the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art to the unparalleled Barnes Foundation; the internationally renowned Philadelphia Orchestra to the ever-innovative Philly POPs; the options for arts and cultural performances are as abundant as the talent pool is deep.

In choosing Philadelphia, the Democratic Party would provide their delegates and other convention-related visitors with an unforgettable experience, and the city’s institutions would enjoy both short-term and longterm profits.

The immediate financial rewards, of course, would contribute further to a rebounding economy and a growing nonprofit sector. In the wake of the recession, nonprofits are recovering at a faster rate than the private sector. Philadelphia’s arts nonprofit community alone employs over 44,000 people, who would stand to gain from the inflow of ticket-buying delegates from across the county.

Additionally, the national stage would elevate Philadelphia’s status as a U.S. cultural center. In cultivating national interest, the convention would entice future visitors. The city’s institutions can further profit from the satisfied patronage of philanthropic delegates, potentially creating a new wellspring of fundraising prospects.

Philadelphia is the logical choice for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Nonprofits should look forward to sharing their mission and goals with U.S. citizens from every corner of the nation, and anticipate ways to educate, entertain, and grow during the convention weekend.

Philadelphia Charities to Benefit from Pope’s Visit

[Leading up to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in September, Shaping the Story will provide regular updates on nonprofit and charity issues as they relate to the pontiff’s first U.S. trip]

Visiting the Philippines on January 18, Pope Francis brought fellow catholics out in droves.

An estimated 6 million people attended what has been officially declared the largest Catholic mass ever held in the county. Appearing in a modest, inexpensive yellow poncho, the Pope spoke about society’s responsibility to children.

The world was moved in particular by his response to an orphaned street girl who had been rescued by a church-run foundation. “Why is God allowing something like this to happen, even to innocent children? And why are there so few who are helping us?” the 12-year old girl asked.

The ever-empathetic Pope responded, “Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question…Those who are discarded cry. But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don’t know how to cry. There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that have been cleansed by tears.”

Pope Francis also paid homage to Catholic nonprofit institutions, stopping at Manila’s Catholic university and spending 20 minutes with the father of a volunteer for Catholic Relief Services who died the day before from collapsing scaffolding in the seaside city of Tacloban.

The Pope’s popularity is unquestionable. He has achieved a rock star status, including in the United States, where he has even adorned the cover of Rolling Stone. A Pew Research Center poll shows that around 80 percent of U.S. Catholics – who will finally have an opportunity to see the pontiff during his first U.S. visit this coming September – have a favorable view of Pope Francis.

The focal point of the visit is the World Meeting of Families, scheduled for September 22 through 25 in Philadelphia. Following the conference, millions of people will flock to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to hear Pope Francis speak on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. The Vatican’s itinerary will also include either a visit to a children’s hospital or to a juvenile prison facility.

The visit presents a unique opportunity for Philadelphia-based nonprofits to galvanize their volunteers and supporters and to reposition their fundraising strategy and messaging for greater results, as the Archdiocese has already done by laying the groundwork for an ambitious year.

On January 20, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia announced a $10 million fundraising goal for the annual Catholic Charities appeal – the chief source of revenue for charitable Catholic activities aiding some 200,000 people through 80 programs. Archbishop Chaput has helped turnaround the region’s Catholic fundraising practices since he entered his position in 2011, surpassing $10 million in fundraising in both 2013 and 2014. The added excitement of the Pope’s visit should make this year even more profitable.

With the media attention, as well as the millions of energized Catholics (and non-Catholic philanthropists no less enthralled by the Pope’s presence) descending on the city, Philadelphia-based Catholic charities and nonprofits should follow the Archbishop’s lead and leverage the Vatican’s visit for 2015 fundraising. The pope’s message of charity, in conjunction with his popularity, will provide fuel for nonprofits’ invaluable basic needs work.

Sendak Foundation Withholds Collection Bequeathed to Rosenbach Museum

The executors of Maurice Sendak’s will are at odds with the Rosenbach Museum and Library; the Sendak foundation has failed to hand over a multi-million dollar rare book collection the famous author reportedly gave to the Rosenbach. The museum has filed a lawsuit against the foundation.

Two and a half years after Sendak’s death, the Sendak Foundation is planning an auction—scheduled for January—that the Rosenbach fears could feature items included in the collection bequeathed to it. The Foundation has argued that it will not hand over several particular items, including valuable editions of Peter the Rabbit, because they are not technically rare books but are rather children’s books. An ironic argument, considering that Sendak viewed the distinctions between children and adult literature to be largely constructed and invalid.

There’s more at stake then the Rosenbach not receiving the items currently withheld. The Sendak Foundation is also looking to reclaim 10,000 works shared by Sendak with the Rosenbach since the 1960s. Citing similar research and collecting interests, Sendak contributed thousands of art pieces, manuscripts, and books over the years to the museum.

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