They call it the GOYA committee — it's an acronym for "get off your assets." The group promotes proxy voting among the 250 foundations that belong to the International Human Rights Funders Group.
Jay Beckner and Stephen Viederman created it to encourage the foundations to actively vote proxies to advance the human rights interests to which the foundations' funding programs are dedicated.
Mr. Beckner is executive director of the $100 million Mertz Gilmore Foundation, New York, and Mr. Viederman is retired president of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, New York, which had $61 million in assets at the end of 2003, the latest figure available.
GOYA plans to conduct a breakout session on proxy voting at the group's semiannual meeting July 10-12 in New York. The foundations in the human-rights funders group "have a certain responsibility to care for their assets ... in a way that reflects on their philanthropic activity," Mr. Viederman said.
Many of the foundations are small and might believe their proxy-voting impact would be inconsequential, Mr. Viederman said. "But if you think you are too small to make a difference, you've never been in bed with a mosquito."