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Public Interest Projects

Grantee:        Public Interest Projects
Ranking:       15th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Received:     $5,201,500
Type:             Social Justice Foundation
Issue:             Immigrant Rights, Youth Voter Registration, Sentencing Reform

About: Public Interest Projects was established in 1973 by Donald K. Ross, founder of the New York Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).  PIP manages donors’ contributions by making grants and providing technical assistance and strategic planning for activist organizations.  PIP brings together activists and funders in “strategic alliances”  and other types of partnerships to maximize their effectiveness. They also sponsor organizations that have not yet established non-profit status and provide research and communications support for donors and grantees.

PIP currently manages six “collaborative and partner” funds:

  • Census Community Outreach Fund (CCOF) “seeks to improve the accuracy of the decennial U. S. Census by seeking out and engaging certain population groups that have proven challenging to count.”  CCOF delivered $600,000 in grants.
  • Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER) “supports groups working to improve student outcomes in low-income communities.”  CPER actually works to increase school spending while opposing reforms that privatize schools, enforce standards, and weigh teacher performance in firing and salary decisions.  Since 2007, CPER has raised $20 million and spent $12 million. Linda Darling Hammond is associated with this growing fund.
  • Four Freedoms Fund (FFF) “funds capacity-building, civic participation and policy advocacy by and for immigrants and refugees.”  Since 2003, PIP has made $36 million in grants to build activism opposing enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
  • Fulfilling the Dream Fund (FDF) — “helps redefine how the U.S. thinks about, talks about and achieves racial and gender inclusion.”  FDF spent $12 million between 2005 — 2010 to defend affirmative action and diversity policies and laws.
  • State Infrastructure Fund (SIF) — “supports state-based organizations working to build and sustain a strong infrastructure for nonpartisan civic engagement and increase voting rates in historically disenfranchised and other underrepresented communities.”  SIF is working to increase voter participation in the next election through existing organizations.
  • U.S. Human Rights Fund (USHRF) — “provides strategic, field-building support to the U.S. human rights movement.”  By funding groups such as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, USHRF works to “bring human rights home” to the U.S. through applying international human rights laws.  One campaign works to end Juvenile Life Without Parole; another supports the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  USHRF has raised more that $20 million.
  • Just and Fair Schools Fund (JFSF) — “an initiative to support community-based groups working to eliminate harsh school discipline policies and practices and secure the right to education for all youth.”  JFSF actually works to oppose school discipline rules, end truancy laws, and prevent schools from taking measures to expel problem students, frequently through “parent and youth-led” activism.

Major donors to PIP include the OSI, Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Tides Foundation, The Overbrook Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Butler Family Fund.  PIP made more than $15.8 million in grants in 2009 to organizations around the country. PIP also manages 15 special projects and serves as the fiscal sponsor to affinity groups and organizations that are closely aligned with its overall mission.

Mission Statement: Public Interest Projects (PIP) brings together the work of philanthropic institutions, nonprofit groups and other public interest organizations who share a vision and commitment to creating a just society. PIP was conceived and grew in response to the same needs it meets today.

Soros Funding: Soros is most actively involved in PIP’s immigrant rights programs, serving on the steering committee of the U.S. Human Rights Fund.


  • Michele Lord, President — previously oversaw  program evaluations on behalf of the Ford Foundation Rockerfeller Foundation and the Open Society Institute. From 1990 to 1993 she was deputy director in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations under Democratic Socialists of America member David Dinkins , where she oversaw the city’s health and human services agencies.
  • Berta Colon, President — previously with the Ms. Foundation for Women, she developed PIP’s immigrant rights and affirmative action funds.
  • Robert Bray, Communictions Director — founded the SPIN Project media training for non-profits; former communications director, Human Rights Campaign Fund.
  • Magui Rubalcava Shulman, Director, Immigration — served as program director for Hispanics in Philanthropy; worked on an evaluation of the Grants for Schools program of the Mongolian Foundation for Open Society Institute.
  • Sue Simon, Director, U.S. Human Rights Fund — from 1999 to 2007 the founding director of Open Society Institute’s Sexual Health and Rights Project which supports advocacy, capacity building and service delivery related to HIV/AIDS for sex workers and LGBT communities in Southeast Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Board of Directors:

  • John Gilroy (President) Campaign for America’s Wilderness, Pittsford, NY — served as Executive Director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group; worked with The Center for Study of Responsive Law, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and currently serves on the board of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.
  • Mark Colón (Vice President) Attorney, New York, NY — Deputy Counsel of New York State’s Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR); provides legal advice to the State’s housing commissioner and assists DHCR’s executive staff in the formulation and enforcement of agency policy; member of the Puerto Rican and New York City Bar Associations.
  • Gina Kim (Director) — television producer who’s worked for NBC, CBS, MTV, Bravo and PBS; most recently the supervising producer of a daily, political news show, GRITtv with Laura Flanders; has produced for NOW with Bill Moyers and David Brancaccio, a political news magazine show on PBS, Phil Donahue on MSNBC, comedian, Lewis Black, and filmmaker Michael Moore on “The Awful Truth” and “Bowling for Columbine”; worked with NBC’s Tom Brokaw in the run up to the 2003 Iraq War and produced videos for the rock band, Rage Against the Machine; directed campaigns on climate change and tort reform for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and worked for the White House Office of Advance for Bill Clinton.
  • Eli Il Yong Lee (Director) Independent Consultant, New Mexico — independent consultant with more than 25 years of executive leadership, issue advocacy and political campaigns, both nationally and in New Mexico; served as campaign manager or general consultant for more than 80 progressive electoral and issue campaigns, with wins in 75 percent of these contests; founding CEO of the Center for Civic Policy, which advanced innovations in nonpartisan civic engagement in the fields of communications, modeling and external metrics; board member of State Voices; former Board President of the Asian American Association of New Mexico; former board member of the State of New Mexico’s Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Commission; longtime board member of the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
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