Too often we are told that we need to fund change, not charity. Tiring of the “either/or” nature of this discussion, I would like to propose an “and/both” approach. Charity is not a bad thing – it is about short-term relief that helps reduce suffering. Who can argue with that? I can’t. However, I also have to stand up TALL for long-term strategies that represent to me the true promise of philanthropy. We need giving that gets to the root causes of social, environment and economic ills and thereby reduces the number of people in need of charitable relief. Both charity and social change philanthropy as typically practiced are done with an eye toward relieving suffering but the latter simply takes a longer term, systemic view in crafting its approaches. This means that yes, charity and social change philanthropy are at one level on the same team. Often the charitable impulse is the necessary starting point for people who then move into more strategic giving. Who can argue with that? I can’t. To flip the script, my new mantra is change AND charity because sometimes you need to reach out to the person suffering on the block while also making sure that no one else will have to suffer like that ever again.
“Philanthropy is commendable. But it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the economic injustice that makes philanthropy necessary.” — Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr.