Whether you call it “social justice philanthropy” or “social change philanthropy” or you don’t call it anything at all, the “it” has existed in a bit of bubble. Let’s break it out of the bubble and welcome it into the 21st century. Quite frankly, it is long overdue for a “makeover.” To that end, we need vibrant discourse in the field of philanthropy about its meaning and relevancy (or lack thereof) — and we need it now. To this end, Changemakers has launched a video project to help jump-start the conversation.This is how it started: In mid-March we invited people from the field of philanthropy who were in San Francisco for the GEO (Grantmakers for Effective Organizations) conference to be interviewed for this project. The goal: engage people in conversation in the hope of uncovering new messaging that matters AND moves people. Here is the opening paragraph from that email request to potential interviewees:”I hope this e-mail finds you well. 2008 is looking to be an exciting year for philanthropy and Changemakers. This coming year, Changemakers is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of grantmaking and advocacy to promote social change philanthropy. In connection to our 10-year anniversary, we are engaging leaders and stakeholders in grantmaking and community building in a dialogue to explore (1) ways to make the message of social change philanthropy relevant to our times and (2) strategies for building a “bigger tent” for change that reaches “beyond the choir” and increases our potential impact on the sector.”This is where the project is going: on the road to set up shop at the Council on Foundations’ Summit in early May. So what do you think?How would you like to see the final product used? Do you want to be part of this? (We particularly want to include voices of people for whom the term may not be so meaningful or relevant in their work.) We would love to hear your thoughts/insights!
The Right-Hearted and Right-Headed Future of Philanthropy March 26, 2008
Imagine the future of philanthropy where foundations respond to changing demographics by including more people of color on staff and in key leadership positions, diversifying boards and investing in leadership in diverse communities. Imagine the future of philanthropy where foundations commonly provide capacity building grants to communities of color to support the development of their own brand of homegrown philanthropy. Imagine this and more because the seeds have been planted for such sweeping shifts in philanthropy over the next two decades.Where is the evidence for this? In a surprising place, buried in the robust discourse that has surrounded California Assembly Bill 624, which would require foundations based in the state with assets over $250 million to disclose data on the diversity of boards, staffs, contractors and nonprofit grantees. Don’t get me wrong: A.B. 624 is no panacea for the problems of exclusion and inequity in philanthropy. Its focus on data collection might bury the real issue – the need to strengthen philanthropic practices of diversity, inclusion and basic fairness. Though right-hearted, the proposed bill might be wrong-headed. However, it has popped the million-dollar question: what is philanthropy’s proper relationship to diverse communities as an expression of its mandate to work in the public trust? As a member of the philanthropic community, we say to our colleagues “let’s go with the discussion.”
With a mission to promote and model philanthropy that is transparent and accountable, Changemakers would never be accused of opposing diversity – to the contrary. We do vow to speak freely and truthfully about how to capitalize on this moment in history to begin to support a real change agenda for the field. This would build on the laudable work of the foundations that “get it” and use their stories to advance knowledge in the field about the relationship between inclusive practices and effectiveness. We know that the foundation world needs to do a whole lot better on this score. . And we are not naïve enough to believe that everyone will embrace such change but what foundation does not want to be a wiser steward of its resources and to maximize its positive impact on the community?
Our approach focuses on cultural change — not legislative mandates– to ensure more equity in philanthropic investments for the long haul. This is not the “diversity police” speaking but rather a humanistic nonprofit that believes in the possibility of forging right-hearted AND right-headed strategies to advance the greater good.
To strike the right tone for this blog, thought I’d post poetic musings that capture why and how we approach doing the seemingly impossible (transforming philanthropy by moving it closer to being transformational) in service to community and toward a vision of a better world.
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope–not the
prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the
stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of
self-righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (our
people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through): nor the
cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all
right.” but a very different , sometimes lonely place, the
place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its
condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of
ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could
be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you
glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle–and we stand
there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we’re seeing,
asking people what they see.
BIG Philanthropy (a.k.a., Philanthropy Out Loud) March 25, 2008
Philanthropy Out Loud was the original name of this blog. Then I remembered something.
Don’t be fooled, “BIG Philanthropy” is not about large piles of cash but rather about philanthropy done BIG.
What inspired me to use this term and what does it mean anyway? A book called Living Big by Pam Gout which encourages the reader to take a leap and embrace their extraordinary life. What if philanthropy chose to live Big? What if it assumes fully the mantle of risk-taker and dreamer, seizes the day, capitalizes on opportunities, and comes into its own ripeness? Philanthropy is an art. Let’s embrace the creative and visionary spirit of the arts and use it to begin to write a new chapter in the story of philanthropy – one that models authenticity and honors the inherent joy of giving.
Philanthropy was created to do big things. And there is simply too much suffering in the world for it to live little.