An open RFP (request for philanthropy) - Generocity Philly

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Jul. 31, 2019 11:32 am

An open RFP (request for philanthropy)

Columnist Tivoni Devor outlines three (relatively) small investments that would make a huge impact in Philadelphia.

Small investments can have big impacts in Philadelphia, says Tivoni Devor.

(Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia)

Per the IRS Master File, there are over 280 Philadelphia-located foundations with assets over $1M, totaling almost $10.4B in assets. With 5% needed to be given away every year equating to about $524M in annual philanthropy.

This money has many missions and goes to many places and is mostly well-invested, but I’d like to suggest a few places a relatively small investment can create huge impact.

Retire medical debt ($150K)

RipMedicalDebt is a nonprofit that buys medical debt off the open market and simply forgives it — they send a letter to those in debt saying it is forgiven. They only focus on people earning less than two times the federal poverty level.

To date they have retired over $625M across the country. In Philadelphia they have identified $15M in medical debt that could be erased for $150K.

Pro bono bankruptcy support ($335K)

Upsolve is a tech-driven nonprofit that has to date helped individuals who can’t afford a lawyer erase over $92M in debt with their DIY bankruptcy guides. They have real lawyers review the application for you. In PA there is a $335 court filing fee that can be waived in some instances.

On average Upsolve users have been able to retire $46,697 in debt each. So lets say philanthropists put up $335,000 to cover 1,000 filing fees, that would help retire $46,697,000 in debt for low-income individuals

Bail out everybody ($3.2M)

Philanthropy could end cash bail a lot faster than the government by simply cutting a check to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund.

Right now there are about 1,500 in pre-trial detention because they can’t afford to post bail. Per a report from Philly Bail Watch the average bail is $21,760 so the average bail bond (10%) would be $2,176 —meaning cash bail would could end right now for about $3.2M. That cash also gets recycled every time a defendant completes all their court appearances so that initial investment can be used over and over again.

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The Philadelphia Controller’s office has also reported that ending cash bail would save the City over $20M a year, itself a huge ROI on the $3.2M investment. You are also keeping families together, helping people keep their jobs while waiting trial, and giving the accused a chance to fight for lower charges.

The City could put that $20M towards other programs to fight poverty.

These three items together would cost $3,685,000 but generate at least $81,697,000 in social economic impact directly affecting those low-income individuals and their families.

Retiring and clearing as much debt as possible is a low-cost but highly efficient way to preserve and pass on as much generational wealth as possible.  These aren’t big splashy items that get your name on a wall, but real simple solutions that are within the grasp of the region’s philanthropic sector.

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