News

Backtalk: Whats Next for Kaitz?

10/25/1998 7:00 PM Eastern

It's been one month since the Walter Kaitz Foundation heldits fund-raising gala. The usual whisperings about what's wrong with the program are stilllingering, and they seem louder and stronger than those of previous years.

With that backdrop in mind, Multichannel Newsdecided to delve into the inner workings of the Kaitz Foundation, or what some people callthe "industry's sacred cow."

Some people, including several of the Kaitz Foundation'sown board members, weren't crazy about participating in the research for this article,which has been in the works for weeks.

Some would not speak on the record about the organization'salleged problems, fearing that they would "appear like racists," in the verywords of one executive.

We understand the sensitivity. But the only comments thatreally count at the end of the day -- those that will effect change -- are those that comefrom people who are strong enough to say them on the record.

It's easy to point fingers, or to inadvertently give outwrong information – and it happened in the course of researching this article -- whenshielded by the cloak of anonymity.

Anyone who knows anything at all about the Kaitz Foundationhas heard all of the rumblings throughout the years. But there's plenty that people tendto forget about. How many industries, after all, have even created and sustained adiversity program?

The answer is, not many, and this one is not perfect. Forexample, many industry executives questioned: Given all of the money that is raised,totaling just under $2 million, is the Kaitz Foundation placing enough -- just 30 -- ofits fellows in companies?

Another question that surfaces is: Where does the moneyreally go? Is it going toward the cause of placing as many of the right fellows in theindustry as possible? Or is the Kaitz Foundation, which is classified as a public charity,spinning out of control with bloated overhead costs?

Another sensitive question that comes up is: Why do certainCEOs who don't have the greatest track records for hiring minorities, let alone Kaitzfellows, wind up being honored at the dinner?

Fortunately, plenty of people were willing to talk aboutthese issues on the record. Many of the executives who we interviewed for our page-onepiece this week were very forthcoming -- especially the Kaitz Foundation's incomingchairman, John Hendricks, founder, chairman and CEO of Discovery Communications Inc.

Hendricks believes that there are four ways of dealing withthe problems of diversity in the workplace: to attack it at the top levels of management;to keep working away at mid-level job titles, like the Kaitz Foundation does now; to seizeopportunities at the entry-level posts, recruiting at colleges; and to go even deeper intohigh schools and prepare students for college and, later on, for careers.

Hendricks, who has been affiliated with the KaitzFoundation for several years, credits the organization -- and especially its leader,Spencer Kaitz -- with trying to find other ways to step up recruitment levels, and hebelieves that the organization has the resources to do that now.

Hendricks went through some of the organization's financeswith us last week. This past year, for example, Kaitz raised $1.8 million at the dinnerand an additional $100,000 in membership fees from its corporate members.

About $400,000 of that sum goes to the dinner, leavingabout $900,000 for the recruitment of fellows, or roughly $25,000 per fellow.

That $25,000 figure, he says, is comparable to what acompany would pay an executive-search firm to fill a job in the $60,000-to-$70,000 salaryrange. And that salary range is the average for Kaitz fellows, he says.

On top of those recruitment dollars, Hendricks says, theorganization has set aside $500,000 in an endowment fund to expand in new directions andto find more and better ways to recruit.

Hendricks says that while the Kaitz Foundation hasidentified many good job candidates, it needs to be more technologically savvy, and itneeds to create a Web site to attract even more potential fellows.

Another goal that the Kaitz Foundation hopes to accomplish,according to Hendricks, is to survey current and past fellows and get their perspective onwhat's working and what's not.

With Hendricks at the helm, we hope that the Kaitz board oftrustees will not only continue to be candid as they are with each other, but that theywill fling open their doors, air out the room and invite comments from all.

Hendricks walks the walk. After all, he's hired nine Kaitzfellows, and six are still at Discovery.

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