Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

MDMA, the man-made drug often called ecstasy or molly, has a colorful history. It was patented in 1914 by the German drug company Merck, and set aside for decades. The US Army studied it during the Cold War, perhaps seeking a chemical weapon or interrogation tool. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, an iconoclastic chemist, rediscovered MDMA during …

Continue reading

Foundations are peculiar institutions. They lack competition or meaningful regulation. They are perhaps the least accountable institutions in the US. Many want to live forever. Last week, the Ford Foundation, which has an endowment of $13.7 billion, said that it has decided to borrow another $1 billion to be able to give more money away …

Continue reading

Every October, Kingston, N.Y., a city of 23,000 people in the Hudson Valley, attracts throngs of visitors to the O + Festival, a weekend celebration of art, music and wellness. The O + Festival — it’s pronounced O Positive — is no ordinary civic gathering. It is, improbably, an alternative to America’s profit-driven health care system: The …

Continue reading

Philanthropic dollars helped to create today’s psychedelic renaissance by funding medical research into the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin and LSD. The research has generated a great deal of excitement, as I reported last year in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and in Medium. Now, startup companies want to bring psychedelic medicines to market. That’s the topic …

Continue reading

When writing about foundations and nonprofits, I try to keep something in mind: Surprisingly few social programs do what they set out to do. When subjected to rigorous evaluation, most fail to produce “meaningful progress in education, poverty reduction, crime prevention and other areas,” as Arnold Ventures puts it. This is one reason why my …

Continue reading

This is a remarkable moment for psychedelics. Elite universities, including Johns Hopkins and Imperial College in London, have opened centers to research the medical benefits of such drugs as psilocybin, a hallucinogen found in certain mushrooms. The nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research (MAPS) is recruiting people suffering from PTSD to participate in FDA-approved clinical trials using MDMA, better known as …

Continue reading

In August 2018, I received an email from a staff member at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, a refuge for farm animals in New York’s Hudson Valley, proposing that I write about Jenny Brown, the co-founder and former executive director. The staff member wrote: I can no longer remain silent about what working at this organization …

Continue reading

What, exactly, does it take to lose a plum seat on the board of a national nonprofit? A lot, it seems, at least in the case of Tessie Guillermo, the former chief executive of ZeroDivide, a $50m foundation based in San Francisco that collapsed abruptly in 2016, leaving troubling questions in its wake. Missing money? A …

Continue reading