Is 'philanthropy' inherently at odds with racial equity?

May 30, 2019

Is the notion of philanthropy inherently at odds with racial equity?

 

In the United States, family foundations have been created by the good intentions of wealthy families. But given our country’s history, these fortunes were amassed in the context of education, housing, employment, and tax policies that favored white people at the expense of everyone else.

 

As a result, family foundations distribute the wealth of white families -- and given modern tax policies, these foundations control enormous wealth without any accountability to the public.

 

The majority of these families seek to build a better world through their giving. But how would they know what’s best for communities of color?

 

Often, listening to and learning from the communities most impacted by racial disparities is an act relegated to hired staff. As lead staff of foundations, it is our challenge to build a community of learning that can support a more equitable approach to philanthropy.

 

As we work to establish best practices to infuse our work with a racial equity lens, we must re-evaluate all aspects of our work, including:

  • How we conduct site visits

  • What we look for in proposals

  • The types of organizations that are funded

  • Who makes funding decisions

 

I’m relieved and challenged by the fact that colleagues from a dozen other family foundations have joined me in this journey. We met for the first time earlier this month and will continue to meet regularly. 

 

Ultimately, the goal is to create a community of practice where we listen to, learn from, support and hold one another accountable.

 

Because isn’t enough to fund racial equity. We must examine and address the inherent racial inequity of family philanthropy.

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