National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2018):

Revenue: $2,798,726
Expenses: $2,427,819
Assets: $2,629,015


Left-Wing Philanthropy Advocacy Group




Aaron Dorfman

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) is a left-of-center advocacy and watchdog group that monitors charitable giving in the United States. It was established in 1976 and is based in Washington, D.C. It advocates for a greater focus on left-leaning causes and advocacy giving in the philanthropic sector.


NCRP was founded in 1976 by left-leaning nonprofit activists Pablo Eisenberg, Thomas R. Asher, and James Abernathy. The three were prominent members of the “Donee Group,” a group of nonprofit leaders and grant recipients that was started to represent the interests of the nonprofit sector before the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (called the “Filer Commission” after its chair, John Filer, the chair of Aetna Insurance). The Filer Commission was founded by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III and was composed of foundation leaders, business and university executives, and academics who investigated charitable giving and the operations and influence of large grant making philanthropies from 1973 to 1975. 1 2

The Donee Group was founded after Eisenberg published an article criticizing the Filer Commission for failing to include the perspectives of grant recipients in its work, especially groups working with low-income and minority populations. The Commission gave the Donee Group a $60,000 grant to formalize its operations and work with Commission staff in preparing the Filer Commission’s final report. Abernathy became the Donee Group’s first executive director and, eventually, interim director of NCRP. 3 4

After the Filer Commission disbanded, the Donee Group decided to “transform itself into a permanent watchdog organization representing nonprofits,” according to Eisenberg. NCRP was founded with initial support from Rockefeller, Filer, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. 5 6

Two years after NCRP was founded, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation argued that NCRP “should be taken seriously as an agent of radical change, in coming years, in philanthropic practices and possibly in the laws governing foundations and charitable contributions,” and that NCRP would capitalize on ignorance of the philanthropic system to urge “a quasi-governmental system dominated by an elite who ‘truly’ perceive ‘the public interest.’”7

Major Initiatives

“Charity War” With United Way

One of NCRP’s first efforts was to attack the United Way, a national coalition of local offices collecting donations for area charities. The United Way pioneered “workplace giving,” which permitted employees to direct a percentage of their pay to local charities chosen by the United Way. NCRP and other critics of the United Way argued that the group’s giving leaned heavily toward traditional charities such as churches, Boy Scout troops, and universities, and refused to sponsor charities that worked with low-income and minority groups or that engaged in political advocacy, especially advocacy for left-leaning causes. 8

The NCRP issued a report in 1978 calling for a repeal of United Way policies “which insist on a monopoly of workplace solicitation” by the United Way and its affiliates. The report criticized the way United Way affiliates “have presented themselves to the public … as if they were the only charity drive to meet all charities’ needs,” while purportedly excluding most neighborhood groups and smaller charities. 9 The NCRP and its allies pressured labor unions and workers to give to alternative charitable federations, accusing the United Way of “pressure tactics to extract contributions so their executives can hang gold plaques in their offices … while leaving you completely out of the decision-making.” 10

Much of the criticism of the United Way coalesced around the United Way of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, which refused to sponsor or permit donations to the Brown Lung Association, a group representing local textile workers diagnosed with byssinosis, or “brown lung disease,” and other respiratory diseases caused by inhaling cotton dust in textile mills. In a Washington Post article from 1979 on what came to be known as the “Charity War,” NCRP organizers accused the United Way chapters of being “dominated by businessmen and their wives.” 11

NCRP also criticized television networks for broadcasting United Way public service announcements during National Football League games and petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to force the networks to present “the other side” under the so-called “fairness doctrine.” Robert Bothwell, the first permanent executive director of NCRP, said the NFL’s public service announcements gave “a fraudulent and inaccurate impression of American philanthropy.” 12

From 1979 to 2005, NCRP would help to create alternative charitable federations focused on giving to causes associated with minority and low-income populations, women’s groups, and groups that supported left-leaning causes including abortion access, environmentalism, and labor unions. 13

Attack on the Combined Federal Campaign

In 1979, NCRP launched an effort to open the Combined Federal Campaign (“CFC”)—the nation’s largest workplace charitable drive, which permits federal employees to donate a portion of their paycheck to charity—to smaller charities, neighborhood groups, and advocacy groups working on left-leaning issues. The effort succeeded under the administration of President Jimmy Carter (D). 14

Bothwell and the NCRP promised lawsuits after the Reagan Administration implemented rules in 1982 limiting CFC donations to “direct services” providers and prohibiting CFC donations to groups engaged in political and litigation advocacy. 15 These rules, NCRP executives charged, were designed to “kick out groups like the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Black United Fund, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, and the Native American Rights Fund,” as well as women’s and environmental advocacy groups. 16

Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld the federal rules, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writing that “The President could reasonably conclude that a dollar directly spent on providing food or shelter to the needy is more beneficial than a dollar spent on litigation that might or might not result in aid to the needy.” 17 However, Congress later enacted legislation permitting advocacy groups to participate in the CFC. 18

Advocacy on Transparency, Spending, and Impact

NCRP has criticized grantmakers for their lack of transparency about funding and procedures, as well as inattention to impact. In 1980, it released the report Foundations and Public Information: Sunshine or Shadow. This report noted that many foundations refused to provide lists of grantees, make grant procedures public, and provide information about salaries or expenses. While some of this information was reported to the Internal Revenue Service, it was often not made available to the public or only available for viewing inside regional IRS offices. 19

The study noted that this lack of transparency often masked charitable giving more focused on marquee arts and educational institutions than on advocacy groups and community groups working with minority and low-income populations. For example, the report noted that in the Washington, D.C., area, one private high school (the prestigious St. Albans School) received more philanthropic support “than the entire category of housing and neighborhood development.” 20 NCRP’s efforts would eventually lead to the IRS expanding the information private foundations must report annually on IRS Form 990-PF. 21

NCRP has long been an advocate of mandating increased spending by foundations, above the 5 percent of endowment that foundations are required to spend annually. In 2000, in the middle of a stock market boom that increased endowments substantially, NCRP co-founder Pablo Eisenberg argued that “Foundations can afford to give out a hell of a lot more than they have given out.” 22 In 2003, NCRP also supported proposed legislation that would have increased mandated foundation giving by excluding administrative expenses, salaries, and rent payments from the mandated 5 percent payout. 23

In the 2000s, NCRP called for the IRS to increase auditing and oversight of charitable groups and foundations, and especially to monitor increases in employees’ salaries and benefits that, it alleged, were diverting charitable dollars from these group’s missions. 24

In 2014, NCRP launched Philamplify, a website that solicits assessments of foundation effectiveness not only from foundation executives and employees, but also grant recipients. The assessment system gives equal weight to objective metrics of philanthropic impact and “a commitment to equity, asking that foundations confront systems that perpetuate inequality, specifically target underserved communities, and involve all those affected by philanthropy in the grantmaking process.” The assessments include “a series of recommendations along these lines that the public can vote on and offers a comment section” for readers and assessors. 25

Criticism of Conservative Philanthropy

In the mid-1990s, NCRP offered several critiques of “conservative philanthropy,” noting that smaller, right-leaning foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation had donated more than $200 million to conservative causes in the preceding several years. 26  These reports noted that conservative foundations had been “effective in building an infrastructure for developing conservative public policy, even with a relatively smaller portion of total foundation assets.” 27

In 2004, when longtime Bradley Foundation President Michael Joyce retired, NCRP criticized the lump-sum payment of $737,923 in deferred compensation he received, as well as a $1.86 million retirement payment. “I think people would be shocked this is going on,” Jeff Krehely, NCRP’s deputy director, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 28

COVID and Black Lives Matter Response

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021, NCRP called repeatedly for foundations to increase their giving above the legally required 5 percent of endowments. In March 2020, NCRP Chief Executive Officer Aaron Dorfman (with Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund) argued that philanthropists should use their assets—which he described as largely “ill-gotten gains from the Trump administration’s tax cuts”—to “promot[e] social justice,” including increasing taxes on capital gains and on high incomes. 29

In March 2021, Dorfman and Dorsey called again for foundations to increase spending in order to “step up and do more to address inequality, racial and economic injustices, and environmental destruction or fight to maintain a corrupt status quo.” Dorfman and Dorsey argued that foundations that “choose to expand their endowments by massive percentages year-on-year while paying out the bare minimum during multiple global economic, public-health, climate, and societal crises,” will become the targets of “[a]ctivists campaigning to #EatTheRich and #BanBillionaires.” 30

Dorfman also predicted that foundations would increase giving to the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups associated with racial issues, and that he hoped it would become a major component of foundation giving in the future. “A lot of us who are proponents of racial justice and social justice are really hoping that this newfound commitment continues,” he said. “It’s an open question as to if it really will.” 31


  1. “The Donee Group Founded NCRP.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  2. “The Filer Commission And The Birth Of NCRP.” March 2, 2016. Accessed June 5, 2021.   
  3. “The Donee Group Founded NCRP.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  4. “The Filer Commission And The Birth Of NCRP.” March 2, 2016. Accessed June 5, 2021.    
  5. “The Donee Group Founded NCRP.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  6. “The Filer Commission And The Birth Of NCRP.” March 2, 2016. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  7. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  8. Ed McConville. “United Way Comes Under Increasing Fire in ‘Charity War.’” Washington Post. November 23, 1979. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  9. Warren Brown. “United Way Criticized as ‘Monopoly.’” Washington Post. December 14, 1978. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  10. Ed McConville. “United Way Comes Under Increasing Fire in ‘Charity War.’” Washington Post. November 23, 1979. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  11. Ed McConville. “United Way Comes Under Increasing Fire in ‘Charity War.’” Washington Post. November 23, 1979. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  12. Ernest Holsendolph. “Group Says United Way’s TV Ads Violate Fairness Doctrine of F.C.C.; Reaction of United Way.” New York Times. November 13, 1979. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  13. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  14. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  15. Karlyn Barker. “Limits on Organizations Eligible for Fund Drive Contributions Proposed.” May 11, 1982. Accessed on Westlaw (1982 WLNR 548777) June 5, 2021.
  16. Robert A. Jordan. “Attack on Minority Charities.” Boston Globe. June 8, 1982. Accessed on Westlaw (1982 WLNR 38713) June 5, 2021.
  17. “Charity Drive’s Bar to Advocacy Groups Upheld.” Associated Press. July 2, 1985. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  18. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  19. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  20. Spencer Rich. “Charity Groups’ Secrecy Criticized.” Washington Post. June 5, 1980. Accessed June 5, 2021.
  21. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  22. Mary Jacoby. “Foundations Resist Pressure to Give More.” St. Petersburg Times. February 14, 2000. Accessed on Westlaw (2000 WLNR 2518178) June 5, 2021.
  23. Stephanie Strom. “House bill would require American foundations to give away more money each year.” International Herald-Tribune. May 20, 2003. Accessed on Westlaw (2003 WLNR 5339065) June 5, 2021.
  24. “IRS Unable to Monitor Nonprofit Groups.” San Jose Mercury-News. April 17, 2003. Accessed on Westlaw June 5, 2021.
  25. Benjamin Soskis. “How a Zagat-Style Website Will Make Philanthropy More Accountable.” The Atlantic. May 20, 2014. Accessed May 28, 2021.
  26. “Who buys the right?” The Nation. November 18, 1996. Accessed on Westlaw (1996 WLNR 6302409) June 5, 2021.
  27. “30 Years: A History from 1976 to 2006.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  28. Bruce Murphy. “Rising Fortunes—How We Pay CEOs: Foundation leaders’ salaries rise with assets.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. October 13, 2004. Accessed on Westlaw (2004 WLNR 17250396) June 5, 2021.
  29. Aaron Dorfman and Ellen Dorsey. “Dorfman (with Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund).” Chronicle of Philanthropy. March 19, 2020. Accessed May 28, 2021.
  30. Aaron Dorfman and Ellen Dorsey. “Do the Math: Foundations Can Afford to Advance the Nation’s Covid Reset.” Chronicle of Philanthropy. March 24, 2021. Accessed May 28, 2021.
  31. Glenn Gamboa. “A year later, racial reckoning yields uncertainty in giving.” Associated Press. June 3, 2021. Accessed June 5, 2021.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: September - August
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 1977

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Sep Form 990 $2,798,726 $2,427,819 $2,629,015 $237,216 Y $2,743,332 $34,400 $17,304 $210,495 PDF
    2017 Sep Form 990 $2,368,379 $2,248,388 $2,197,319 $177,666 N $2,328,977 $27,200 $11,093 $196,555
    2016 Sep Form 990 $2,125,444 $1,927,967 $1,966,471 $91,593 N $2,094,740 $17,174 $13,109 $182,623
    2015 Sep Form 990 $1,961,149 $1,912,630 $1,761,837 $103,976 N $1,940,168 $240 $16,258 $171,552 PDF
    2014 Sep Form 990 $1,980,455 $2,108,484 $1,712,423 $88,964 N $1,973,670 $1,045 $5,131 $166,496 PDF
    2013 Sep Form 990 $1,541,645 $1,658,993 $1,844,222 $88,166 N $1,499,720 $35,305 $6,390 $154,152 PDF
    2012 Sep Form 990 $1,634,183 $1,421,050 $1,944,893 $71,489 N $1,611,885 $1,698 $19,015 $145,356 PDF
    2011 Sep Form 990 $1,197,785 $1,658,707 $1,746,356 $86,085 N $1,173,278 $1,270 $21,921 $141,594 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

    1900 L ST NW STE 825
    WASHINGTON, DC 20036-5009