The Kaitz Foundation’s Dynamic Trio

9/19/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

This week, a capacity crowd of cable executives will squeeze into the New York Hilton to imbibe cocktails, schmooze each other silly and, of course, talk about the state of diversity within the cable universe. To be sure, the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s annual dinner is a well-loved tradition.

But this year could feel a bit different.

For one thing, the Kaitz Foundation will go beyond just honoring an individual (this year, it’s the group’s founder Spencer Kaitz), but also praise three organizations well known to industry veterans: The Emma Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media, the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications and Women in Cable & Telecommunications. The addition to the program is quite fitting, considering that this is the first year in which those three entities are the only ones receiving money from Kaitz’s three-year-old grant program.

The decision to streamline its nascent grants process was part of Kaitz’s radical restructuring ratified last September. Other changes included folding its administrative functions into the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and hiring Debbie Smith, formerly a well-respected diversity executive at Allfirst Financial Inc., to take over as the new executive director in April.

“All of these organizations do phenomenal things,” says Smith. “We thought it was important to highlight these organizations, and to create awareness and additional support.”

Former Kaitz president Art Torres, who had raised some eyebrows by running the organization while maintaining a leadership role within the California Democratic Party, had already overseen a shift in the organization’s strategy back in 2002. Originally, Kaitz focused on placing minorities in high-level positions. But in 2002, the placement services ended, and it began providing grants to third-party organizations.

But during the grant program’s first two years, questions surfaced over whether money was being spread too broadly to maximize its impact industrywide, especially in the mentoring and leadership-training areas. With many organizations vying for limited funds, applicants often must jostle for very few slots, leaving many worthy candidates out of programs that could otherwise benefit them.

“We heard that there weren’t enough spots in them, and that’s a resource issue,” says Comcast Corp. executive vice president David Cohen, who, along with Time Warner Cable executive vice president Lynn Yaeger, co-chaired the strategic committee that recommended changes to Kaitz’s organization in 2003.

Yaeger agrees that focusing on Emma Bowen, NAMIC and WICT was largely a result of input that came back from cable operators and programmers, many of whom mentioned those entities’ programs as among the most effective in the industry.

“They had powerful programs that were highly successful and well thought of,” she says. “The problem is that we needed to scale them. That became a high priority.” So by lowering administrative expenses through staffing reductions and wrapping Kaitz into the NCTA, the goal was to create a more efficient organization with more money to distribute as grants.

“The objective is to make more dollars available, and for those dollars to really go to diversity instead of paying salaries and overhead,” Yaeger says.

Kaitz’s annual operating budget is now between $1 million and $1.5 million, but it varies depending on membership dues and the success of the annual dinner. All told, membership dues account for up to $500,000, and the dinner can raise up to $1 million for the foundation annually. According to Smith, in 2003, Kaitz doled out a total of $216,250 to Emma Bowen, NAMIC and WICT, along with another $286,000 to six other organizations ranging from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers to non-cable-centric groups like the National Association of Independent Latino Producers.

While some grants have already been distributed to the three “winning” organizations, others were still being mulled at presstime. So the overall funding figure for the threesome in 2004 was yet to emerge. However, she says that 2004 grants will be close to the disbursements in 2003, which was just over $500,000. The difference this year, of course, is that the money will be split among three organizations rather than nine.

“You’re going to see the same amount of funding going just to those organizations,” says Smith, adding that Emma Bowen’s focus on students should help support the professional and leadership-development programs so prominent at NAMIC and WICT. “It’s a very nice transition and segue with these three organizations,” she says.

Show Me the Money

To be sure, the bigger pool now available for Emma Bowen, NAMIC and WICT has put significant pressure on those organizations to spend the funds wisely — and expand the very programs commonly lauded by cable industry executives. But leaders of the three groups are working hard to meet expectations.

At Emma Bowen, for example, president and CEO Phylis Eagle-Oldson has been using the Kaitz grants to beef up programs and plan new initiatives. One program, started in 2003 and carried through to 2004 with funding from Kaitz, is the Link Mentoring Initiative. As part of the program, several groups of four students meet four times over the summer with mentors who teach them networking skills, presentation techniques and other pointers that will help them succeed in the corporate world. At the end of each night, they attend a “fabulous forum” in which they can interact with executives.

“That was a great exchange,” Eagle-Oldson says of the most recent forum this summer. “It was an open forum to ask questions you don’t normally get to ask. The Kaitz grant was phenomenally helpful to us.”

In addition, Kaitz was the largest sponsor of Emma Bowen Foundation’s summer conference in June in New York City, doubling its contribution from 2003. “With the extra funding this year, we were able to bring 120 students to New York for two and a half days, and we couldn’t have done that without Kaitz,” says Eagle-Oldson. Even though Emma Bowen Foundation’s $750,000 annual operating budget stems mostly from 42 corporate sponsors, the Kaitz Foundation provided $50,000 in grants in 2003. While Eagle-Oldson declined to say how much the organization has received in 2004, she says Kaitz’s funding remains crucial to its mentoring programs.

“We couldn’t function without it,” she says, adding that other expenses eat up most of the corporate funding beyond the Kaitz grants. “There’s virtually nothing left for any of the extra things we need to do. We couldn’t do those without the [Kaitz] grants.” In fact, 2004 marked the first year that Emma Bowen didn’t have to limit summer conference attendance because of financial constraints.

Cable operators, meanwhile, are taking notice.

At Charter Communications Inc., Wesleyan University sophomore Ashley Martin just completed her second year in Emma Bowen’s internship program, working this summer in the government relations office where she did an “exceptional job,” according to Joiava Philpott, Charter corporate vice president of government affairs and franchise relations. Charter has already invited Martin back next summer to work in the legal department.

NAMIC, which has won kudos throughout the cable industry for its mentoring and executive leadership programs, depends on Kaitz for more than $50,000 in annual funding (along with more than $80,000 in mentoring support from the NCTA). Kaitz provided NAMIC with $58,250 in 2003. The Kaitz portion is a small part of NAMIC’s $2 million annual budget, but NAMIC executive vice president Kathy Johnson says it’s a vital lifeline for certain programs. “It helps us make a difference,” she says.

For example, Johnson says Kaitz provides “99% to 100%” of the funding for the organization’s L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program, which makes mentors available to NAMIC members seeking career assistance. Once paired, mentors and mentees go through an online training experience and enter into a mentorship “contract” to hash out expectations. Each then gets a Web page to help with scheduling appointments and provide access to mentoring resources.

Kaitz also helps fund NAMIC’s Executive Leadership Development Program, an initiative launched in 2001 “to help our industry develop a pipeline of leaders of color” for senior-level positions. The program was prompted by a 1999 NAMIC study that found that minorities comprise 30% of the overall population but only 13% of the reporting companies’ middle managers (director and vice president levels).

By early September, NAMIC had already received 70 applications for the program’s 30 available slots in 2004. “It’s highly selective,” notes Johnson. The program is comprised of four two-and-a-half-day sessions at University of California at Los Angeles’s Anderson School of Management, for a total of 10 days in October, November, February and April.

Kaitz funds also pays for “curriculum development fees” associated with the program’s Alumni Workshop, a one-day seminar that usually takes place at UCLA in October but will occur this year at the annual NAMIC conference this week. As of early September, 50 of the program’s 85 alumni were confirmed to attend.

In addition, NAMIC is working with Kaitz to possibly fund an executive coaching program in 2005 in which alumni of the leadership program will mentor other executives. It will include 10 executive coaching scholarships in which NAMIC-approved coaches will provide mentoring in four to six intensive sessions with mentees.

WICT Expands Programs

At WICT, Kaitz funding helps sustain a number of initiatives that have gained popularity within the cable industry in recent years. For example, Kaitz provided roughly $113,000 to the organization in 2003, with about $43,000 of that going to fund scholarships for 30 African-American men and women to attend the WICT Forum in Orlando, Fla., in June 2003. “It had a large and favorable impact on the diversity of the program,” says WICT president and CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley.

WICT hopes to receive Kaitz funding for its 2004 WICT Forum, which occurred last Spring, but had yet to receive it in early September. (Smith says WICT is in line to receive money shortly, but she declined to break out how much.) “We’re hopeful it will be at least as much money as last year,” says Fitzgerald Mosley. In the future, WICT could expand the scholarship program if funds from Kaitz increase — a possibility under the more narrowly focused grants system.

In addition, WICT received approximately $70,000 from Kaitz in 2003 to launch its “Pay Equity Advancement Opportunity Resources for Work-Life Support,” or PAR, initiative, which surveyed the cable industry to determine how women are faring in the workplace. Among findings were that women make up only 29% of management positions in the cable industry compared to 42% at all U.S. companies. It also found that women of color are almost entirely absent from cable industry senior-management ranks. The results of WICT’s 2004 PAR initiative will be announced in November at the WICT Foundation Benefit Gala in Washington, D.C.

In 2004, WICT has asked for continued Kaitz support to fund existing programs as well as expand its offerings, including the addition of a second class to its annual Betsy Magness Institute and executive development programs.

Fitzgerald Mosley says Kaitz’s highlighting of Emma Bowen, NAMIC and WICT at this week’s dinner should help increase awareness of such leadership programs among cable industry executives. “For WICT, having this exposure allows people to get a better sense of what we do,” she says, adding that too often executives assume that “there are plenty of women” in the industry. “In actuality, there are not,” she says.

Those Left Out

The organizations that previously received Kaitz funding (or could at least apply) have noticed the recent void. “I think the organizations that relied on that funding in the past will feel an impact,” says Pamela Williams, executive director of the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association, which received Kaitz money in 2003.

Williams says she understands the difficult decisions faced by Kaitz in 2003 but still yearns for the old days. “I know they went through a lot of thought,” she says. “Certainly, that’s not an easy job. But it would be wrong to say we aren’t disappointed.”

CTHRA received $55,000 from Kaitz in 2003 to develop a minority-recruitment and retention program for cable companies, but Kaitz’s new grants system means “we will lack the resources to develop similar programs going forward,” she says.

For 2004, CTHRA has been offering its recruitment program to companies for a fee but, so far, A&E Television Networks has been the only taker. “We’re looking at better ways to market the program,” she says, noting that it’s difficult to get the word out with such limited resources.

The National Association of Latino Independent Producers, which received $25,000 from Kaitz in 2003, is also feeling a void in 2004. “We sorely miss a dedicated funder like the Walter Kaitz Foundation,” says NALIP executive director Kathryn Galan. “I can’t replace them, and I often can’t access funds of the member corporations, because they make contributions to Kaitz that now go only to those three designated non-profits.”

Among NALIP programs helped by Kaitz money in 2003 were the Latino Writers Lab in New York in March 2003 and “Crafting Your Package,” a two-day producer’s seminar held in Miami in December 2002 and in Los Angeles in March 2003. The “Crafting Your Package” seminars died in 2004 without Kaitz support, although NALIP folded elements of them into its national conference and Latino Producers Academy events. However, NALIP did hold another Latino Writers Lab in April 2004 with funding from other sources.

Galan says the loss of Kaitz support has forced NALIP to scramble a bit. “We hoped to have the Walter Kaitz Foundation as a partner in these efforts for more than a year.”

Even organizations that haven’t received Kaitz funding in the past are disappointed they can no longer apply. The T. Howard Foundation falls into that category. T. Howard unsuccessfully applied for $150,000 in Kaitz grants in 2002 and has long fought the perception that it’s primarily a satellite-centric organization.

“Eighty percent of my business goes through programmers who go either way,” says T. Howard president Curtis Symonds. “Unfortunately, I think we get a little penalized.” At the same time, T. Howard Foundation is trying to “possibly expand our scope” in the near future to change that perception, with hopes of later convincing Kaitz to take another look at it as a funding destination, Symonds says.

Cohen acknowledges critics but says the Kaitz Foundation hopes to achieve greater results by awarding grants more narrowly. “Anywhere you draw the line, there are potential complaints and concerns,” he says. “But if you try to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to anyone.”

And to be sure, some cable organizations aren’t letting the new structure get them down “I’m very excited about the new leadership at Kaitz,” says Steve Villano, president and CEO of Cable Positive, which had asked for $25,000 from Kaitz in 2003 to expand an AIDS awareness program but never received the grant. The money would have funded the expansion of Cable Positive’s “Positive Generation” campaign in which students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., competed to receive a $2,000 stipend to produce a public-service announcement about AIDS risks. The plan was to expand the contest to other universities.

“We will keep the dialogue open,” says Villano. “We’re exploring other ways we can work with Kaitz.” In addition, Cable Positive plans to work with the three Kaitz-funded entities to help them develop new programs.

Other cable organizations also aren’t exactly worried about the new Kaitz system. SCTE, for example, received money from Kaitz in 2003 to help support Operacion Español, a workforce development and diversity program targeted to Spanish-as-a-first-language engineers. But SCTE spokeswoman Kimberly Maki says the funds were never intended to be “ongoing,” so the Kaitz restructuring has not adversely impacted the program, which continues in full force this year with funding from other sources.

In any event, hardships felt by some groups because of Kaitz’s new grants system aren’t lost on the three organizations reaping the benefits. But while sympathetic, they also hope the move will more narrowly concentrate Kaitz funds on areas deemed most focused on diversity. “It makes sense, and it’s very consistent with Kaitz’s original mission,” says NAMIC’s Johnson. “These three organizations — their only mission is diversity.”

That point, perhaps more than any other, may describe the thinking of the Kaitz Foundation’s board and staff as it ends the first year under the new restructuring. And while the pile of grant applications may be smaller these days, Kaitz continues to keep its focus on raising maximum dollars for diversity. Case in point: Even though the dinner this week is officially sold out, “we’re still taking requests for tables,” says Smith. “We’ll put people in the rafters if we have to.”

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