Lessons from the Demise of Vanguard

posted on: February 8, 2013

By Aaron Dorfman

Editor’s Note: The fall of Vanguard Public Foundation may have taken place several years back, but a recent report titled “The Demise of Vanguard” offers a chronicle of what led to the demise of what was once a dependable source of funding for progressive community organizing and lessons for the philanthropic community. Below is the report’s introduction written by NCRP’s executive director, Aaron Dorfman.

[The Demise of Vanguard] presents a nearly unbelievable tale of deception and fraud. If the events described hadn’t actually harmed so many, they might make good fodder for an intriguing novel.

As painful as it may be to do so, I urge everyone engaged in progressive philanthropy to study carefully this accounting of events involving the demise of Vanguard Public Foundation. The authors recount in great detail what happened and offer insights into how so many good people could have been duped and deceived. Their truth-telling is a great service to all of us who care about philanthropy’s role in building a fair, just and equitable world. Only if we really understand how these events transpired can we hope to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

This publication does more than simply tell the story of Vanguard, however. It also offers promising ideas for how to move forward and how to help ensure improved ethical operations for progressive philanthropic institutions. I hope the authors’ recommendations spark a robust conversation followed by concrete action.

If we can’t hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethics, integrity and openness, we will continue to be vulnerable to charlatans and swindlers.

Read the full text of “The Demise of Vanguard,” written by Yolanda Alindor, Kazu Haga, Marco Montenegro, Ron Rowell and Leslie Wozniak.

You can also learn about community reconciliation efforts at http://public.vanguardjustice.org/rebuilding-the-vanguard-community.

Aaron Dorfman is the executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). He frequently blogs about the role of philanthropy in society.