BIG Philanthropy

What will be philanthropy’s “new story?”

AB624: GONE BABY GONE June 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 5:36 pm

On Tuesday the report came: an agreement had been reached between some of the largest foundations in California and the sponsor of a bill that would have mandated collection of diversity data from private foundations with more than $250 million in assets. But what are the implications of this foundation-initiated alternative to a legislative to the long-term advancement of diversity and inclusiveness in the sector? Is this the end of the conversation as people assume that diversity in philanthropy in the state has been taken care of by those ten members of the coalition?

Three interrelated issues are now weighing on my mind.

“Didn’t we take care of that?” syndrome

My hope – our hope – is that that the issue writ large of diversity does not quietly go away and become subsumed in a grantmaking initiative that helps nonprofits access foundation funding. Do not mistake my position, I believe that that what the foundation coalition is proposing to do is a worthy endeavor; however, much more needs to be done from a broader spectrum of philanthropic leaders to move diversity and inclusiveness from “worthy project” to “core value” status. Diversity and inclusiveness is a multifaceted issue that clearly touches upon foundation practice policies but so much more. What has been missing from the discussion to date about diversity in philanthropy is the need to invest in and grow philanthropy within diverse communities. As demographics shift, the future viability of the sector lies, in part, in harnessing the energies and resources of emerging donor of color for community change. What other essential issues are absent from the current discourse? Let us continue to pose more questions, engage in thoughtful inquiry and take the discourse to the next level.

Is it really a question of organizational capacity?

One I volunteered at a small nonprofit focused on people f color and was rejected by a funder on the grounds that they only fund “large, elite organization.” In any event, did not matter that we were well-run, relatively sophisticated and had sufficient capacity to meet our goals, we were able to be an effective organization. This in many ways a question of leadership and who is/is not deemed to be a leader. If that were true, for this capacity building effort to be truly successful would that require growing grassroots organizations into large, elite institutions? I hope not, For the nonprofit sector to be a dynamic and effective force for change, it needs all types of organizations, including small and nimble grassroots ones that bring an unique perspective, set of strengths and ability to work in the world

A lost opportunity to discuss the root issue?

The issue of diversity and inclusiveness also has an undeniable corollary that lies beneath the surface: race and racial justice. Let’s not only hope that the dialogue continues but take steps to near that is does. If we all go back to business as usual and do not take the time to step back, reflect and engage in deep thinking about an issue worthy of such attention, then this will be a lost rare window of opportunity to talk about the difficult issue that often undermines our efforts to create positive social change: race.

I had lunch with a friend the other day and she made a spot on remark: when people talk about race they either talk from a very intellectual, theoretical place or from an individual, deeply personal one. It is rare indeed to engage in an honest and balanced conversation that looks at the complexities, including the interrelationship between the personal and the political. What if foundations took this spotlight on diversity as a signal for raising in a thoughtful and meaningful way the issue on race? What if foundations took the lead in trying to fashion dialogue that would look at all aspects of the issue in order to enrich our understanding of race? What if they viewed Obama;s bid for the presidency as a further sign that the time is ripe for a community dialogue on race?

What if? And what do you think about any or all of these three weighty issues?


Dignified Philanthropy June 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 9:26 pm

Effective Philanthropy, Strategic Philanthropy and other terms have taken center stage in the current discourse about foundation practice. I find myself wondering if those terms really capture what people – policymakers, nonprofits and the general public – might want to get from philanthropy, i.e., is what would they view as the sector’s true and proper contribution to civil society? Inspired by lyrics of a song by Irish folks singer Luka Bloom in which he chimes about the power of simple dignity. In that song referring to the quintessential case of dignity I action that we all know: Miss Rosa Parks.

What is it about simple dignity that has the power to transform?
Dignity is a concept intricately lined to another one: respect. As a former student of philosophy, I also find myself revisiting Kant who identified three types of respect, the third “reverentia” is the one we might most associate with dignity – especially in a social change context. This has been described as “the special feeling of profound awe and respect we have in the presence of something extraordinary or sublime, a feeling that both humbles and uplifts. On Kant’s account the moral law and people who exemplify it in morally worthy actions elicit reverentia from us, for we experience the law or its exemplification as something that always triumphs our inclinations in determining our wills.” (Excerpted from the “Respect” entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philanthropy, first published September, 2004; substantive revision, June, 2007)

What is Dignified Philanthropy?
Let’s suppose – just suppose –that philanthropy organized itself in a fashion that placed the highest value on dignity, thus, working diligently to maximize reverentia. This would mean that egos would have to take a backseat as simple dignity moves center change. How might this change the way in which foundation, for instance, work? When I gaze into my magical crystal ball, I see foundations developing authentic relationships with grant seekers, reaching out intentionally to engage diverse communities and working collaboratively with each other and the other players in civil society – government and the for-profit business sector. Foundations would build relationships with policymakers, media and the general public to help demystify the field. I see foundations engaging in more risk-taking and sharing their failures as part and parcel of being thriving learning organizations. Foundations would of course move with strong purpose and intentionality – the context for Rosa parks actions were certainly purposeful but above all, foundations would remind themselves constantly of the heart equation in the work – that passion and compassion must lead and inform how they think of their roles and achieve their desired impact in the word. Through this approach that connects “soul to role” foundations will get the reverentia they deserve.

Just a few initial thoughts – I will continue mulling over this concept. What do you think?


The Other Diversity in Philanthropy June 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 4:38 pm

The headlines and the conference brochures tell the story: diversity in philanthropy has hit the big time. AB624 might have been the catalyst for a discussion that is now expanding and growing richer in substance. To date the discourse about diversity in philanthropy has centered on a call for foundations to recruit more diverse staff and boards and fund more diverse organizations.  This is clearly of vital importance and Changemakers plays its part in this primarily by educating family foundations about diversity and inclusiveness. What the conversation often fails to explore is how foundations can invest in and grow philanthropy within diverse communities.  Immigrant and established communities of color have always done their own way of giving but are now trying to come into their own in the world of mainstream philanthropy in the U.S. What is the role of traditional philanthropy in helping them find a seat at the table of organized giving? In the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ recent report “Philanthropy in a Changing society “ Achieving Effectiveness through Diversity” is a recommendation that philanthropy “build new partnerships and collaborations with philanthropic associations, affinity groups and other nonprofits working to increase visibility and participation of disenfranchised groups into mainstream philanthropy.”

Recent research conducted by Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University in conjunction with the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) is also illuminating on the why the issue of diversity in philanthropy is important not only to philanthropy but the larger nonprofit sector. A recent article in the Nonprofit Times notes:  Based on new evidence of charitable contributions, these research findings suggest that immigrants are being incorporated into U.S. philanthropic traditions, adapt rapidly to U.S. charitable institutions, and also have the potential to contribute to and transform nonprofits.”

Could it be that diversity in philanthropy has a multi-faceted issue that goes beyond how foundations structure themselves and their grantmaking? Might capacity building in disenfranchised communities serve as another critical strategy for diversity that also (and not insignificantly) helps move the entire nonprofit sector forward? Certainly to avoid the implications of shifting demographics can only have long-term negative affects on the nonfat sector. We must capitalize on this moment of heightened visibility of the issue of diversity in philanthropy to connect the dots between diverse giving and strengthening nonprofits for the long haul.

Now the promo: please check out Changemakers’ EDG (Essentials for Diversity in Philanthropy) curriculum, which is designed to help people who have been on the outside of the field (people of color and other disenfranchised groups) find a place on the inside. By working with those who work directly with donors, EDG is designed to help donors give fully and meaningfully to nonprofit efforts to transform communities from the inside out.